Thank you, Pierre!

Hey everyone, my name is Lorand – @LorandBodo – and in this post, I want to tell you my story of how I became OSINT-curious…

Several factors sparked my interest, but the story begins when I came out of the military and was thinking about what I should do next in my career. I knew I was interested in international security and terrorism in particular – a subject that I’ve always wanted to study. However, there were no ‘terrorism’ focused degrees in Germany at that time, so I decided to do a BA in Political Science and Oriental Studies – the closest thing I could get.

I studied Arabic and learned more about Islam, particularly focusing on Salafism which I’d not heard of before. I quickly came across several German-based and German-speaking preachers who were highly active on social media. During my research, I found one of the most prominent figures in Germany, namely, Pierre Vogel (Abu Hamsa). What I found fascinating about this guy was the way he had used YouTube and other social media platforms to effectively and efficiently spread his messages online.

When going through the comments section, I quickly realised how much valuable information is buried there. I came across very interesting discussions about Islam and democracy, but I also found links to other websites and blogs as well as other YouTube and social media profiles.

Then something clicked and I came to realise how powerful and helpful publicly available sources can be, especially when studying certain phenomena from afar.

This certainly sparked my OSINT-curiosity and ever since, I’ve been asking myself, if I had to study X, how could I do that when I only have access to the world wide web and publicly available sources?

In other words, what methods can I use (or even develop) to collect data that I need to process and analyse in order to answer my research question(s)?

But don’t get me wrong, just because you can use open-source information does not necessarily guarantee you will find the answers you’re looking for. It definitely has its limitations and being aware of this is equally important.

So, coming back to my story, I should emphasise that I did not know what OSINT was when I stumbled across this “Salafist information gold mine”. It was only after I read a couple of academic articles and books that mentioned OSINT as one of the key intelligence collection disciplines. This is when I put the puzzle pieces together and realised “I want to learn everything about OSINT” and in particular, how I could use that for research purposes.

What happened next was, I did my first OSINT course, where I learned the basics and never looked back since. I have become obsessed with it and kept learning more and more and more. Even today, I’m still learning either by reading case studies, articles, or following discussions on Twitter and other platforms and most importantly, by applying OSINT tools and techniques to topics that matter to me.

As the open source landscape is constantly changing, so do the tools and techniques. To keep up with the latest developments, I try to read as much as possible. That is why I focus on topics that interest me the most. And what keeps motivating me is OSINT-curiosity!