This time around I want to introduce one of the most prolific contributors and experts of the online OSINT community, a certified cybercrime investigator, a former Interpol analyst and the person behind the OSINT Dojo: the one and only – Sinwindie.
So first thing first – what is your background and why are you involved in the OSINT community?
So to answer your question: my undergrad degrees taught me valuable skills, but were not what I wanted to do for a career.
I decided to go back to school for a Masters focusing on intelligence analysis instead. My initial jobs were “All Source”, meaning I took intelligence from OSINT, as well as other -INTs, and synthesized them to create intelligence products.
I later transitioned into working for law enforcement agencies providing intelligence work, where I specialized in OSINT for use in attribution. OSINT, and intelligence in general, has always been about the “chase” for me. I enjoy the feeling of knowing that my work contributed to helping identify and locate someone causing harm to others.
I also enjoy the aspect of sharing and helping others learn because OSINT is a skill that can be applied to many careers, even those outside the public sector. There is nothing quite like seeing a student’s “lightbulb” moment when everything finally clicks.
Tell me about OSINT Dojo. Not only what it is, but also tell me about the motivation behind this idea. How does it work and why should people participate?
The idea of the Dojo came up after a few months of regularly getting variations of the same questions such as “How do I get started in OSINT” or “What do I need to get an OSINT job?”
I decided to work on a very loose road map to help new analysts get started. I wanted to gamify the steps on this road map as a way to entice users to keep pushing themselves to the next level and sharing their work along the way.
The idea here is that by the time you complete a few stages of the OSINT Dojo you should have a small portfolio of articles and videos, as well as some hands-on OSINT experience, that shows your skills as an OSINT analyst.
Plus, who doesn’t like having digital badges to show off? then finally to what resources you recommend to new starters, general learning curve, etc. Always start with the basics. When the tools fail you, the methodology will keep you going in the right direction, even if you have to do so manually.
The intelligence cycle is one of the first things new users should familiarize themselves with, with basic documentation and time management skills being a close second. OSINT is not just about collecting all the things, you also have to be able to synthesize the information and convey it succinctly as well.
I always suggest looking at past intelligence reports that have been publicly released to get an idea of what a final product might look like.
How old is OSINT Dojo?
The OSINT Dojo officially opened up on November 20, 2020 – so we’re just around 4 months old now.
How many active participants does the OSINT Dojo community have? Where is the best place to find them – Discord, Twitter, or elsewhere?
That’s actually a good question, one that I don’t quite know myself. We do not utilize tracking cookies or such on the website, so I have no idea how many visitors we get.
I can say that at this point we have at least nine users which have earned at least one badge, and a handful that have earned more than one badge. That being said, there are many users who participate in our weekly challenges and other related activities who are still actively working towards their first badge, or that are just participating without any interest in the badges themselves.
As for where to find them, it really varies. The OSINT Dojo is somewhat platform-agnostic, so you will find users across other communities on all platforms such as Discord, Slack, Twitter, Youtube, etc. Our mission isn’t to provide a central platform for OSINT analysts, but to instead provide a rewards system to encourage sharing and collaboration in the communities they are already a part of.
Do you have any success stories so far, on how the OSINT Dojo helped, enabled or empowered people?
I have a few anecdotal stories from folks that have reached out to me.
I have received many general messages from users who have found the information or resources helpful in learning new skills or techniques and reached out to say thanks.
I’ve also had a couple of people message me to say that some of the skills they learned by doing challenges or browsing the resource section they were able to apply to their current position and received praise or positive attention from their boss or co-workers.
What is really going to make my day is if I ever receive a message from a student who was able to get a job using their Dojo work as their portfolio when applying.
OSINT Dojo is all about the ranks and badges. When you rank up, do you get a digital badge or a certificate, or both?
Users that rank up, or complete some other special challenge such as an OSINT Dojo TryHackMe room, will receive a digital badge for their accomplishment.
At this time we do not have any plans to provide certificates, but that’s not to say that we might not explore that option in the future.
Check out the rank structure and the requirements for each rank here.
Has anybody achieved the top OSINT Dojo rank yet?
Not yet, currently, the highest-ranked users are at the Ronin level. There are minimum time limits that a user must spend in each level to ensure that they are not just rushing through the process.
The entire process from Student to Shogun takes a minimum of 13 months to complete. We are all about the journey, not the destination.
What are the future plans for the OSINT Dojo initiative?
Right now we are trying to set up short videos on our YouTube that covers some basic OSINT techniques, tools, or methodologies.
I’m a visual learner, so I’ve always been a fan of videos for learning. We’ve also got our first TryHackMe room that will be publicly released soon that will also come with a digital badge for those that complete it as well.
Depending on the interest, we may continue to do more OSINT rooms of varying difficulties.
While I have you here – what OSINT resources and tools do you recommend? And not just for beginners, but also for those who are already in OSINT a while?
To be effective all of us need to be constantly learning. Some of the tools and techniques I used heavily in my early career have been dead for years now.
The OSINT and SOCMINT landscapes move fast, so try not to put all of your eggs into one basket whether in a tool or a platform. If there is a tool that you really like, be sure that you understand it on a very deep level so that you know how it works or even see if you can recreate it.
Knowing how a tool functions is very important if you ever find yourself needing to replicate it because the original was removed or went down.
PS. Sinwindie was being too modest when talking about the OSINT tools and learning materials – his OSINT Dojo has a great list of those right here.
PSS. I have pledged to participate in this ingenious project, to go back to basics and enlist as a Student of OSINT Dojo. Stay put for updates!