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5 Games to Master OSINT Skills: Part 1

Getting to grips with open-source intelligence is a challenge, we know. With investigators needing to get their heads around so many different sub-disciplines, it’s understandable that the learning curve can be daunting. The good news is that learning can happen in many ways, and getting OSINT practice can be a relaxed and fun experience. 

So today, we’re talking about our favorite open-source intelligence challenges and games. From mobile and video games to nail-biting OSINT exercises, we look at interactive ways to improve your OSINT skills and bolster your confidence. And this is only part one! A follow-up list will be coming soon. Let’s see what’s what!

Project VOID [IOS] [Android]

You’ll need to examine archives for leads

A mobile puzzle game, Project VOID sets missions that center around a given topic, in a way that reflects investigative work. The difficulty ranges from easy to super tricky, providing challenges for even the most seasoned puzzle enthusiast. There’s also a handy hint system to help you if you get stuck. And there’s no timer, so puzzles can be solved at your own pace. 

But more importantly, the game has an in-built interactive browser that you must use for conducting research. This is interesting because it replicates the intelligence cycle, encouraging you to combine and analyze information from different sources, such as newspaper clippings and scribbled notes, and look into historical events corresponding to the mystery.

OSINT Skills Trained
Creative Thinking. OSINT analysts are often required to make sense of tangled webs of information that span different sources but tend towards a common goal. Doing this effectively requires creative thinking and problem-solving skills, which is precisely what Project VOID can help you sharpen.


Solve non-obvious investigative puzzles

If you fancy yourself as cybersecurity proficient, this will put that to the test. Carefully crafted by recruitment and gamification specialist Jan Tegze, the challenges on this site are similar to hacking tasks, requiring answers to be deduced from web code. However, they also force you to conduct research across a wide spectrum and source your own information.

Demanding cybersecurity know-how and investigation skills, these challenges will engage multiple disciplines to help teach you certain tricks. While the site offers hints for each puzzle, don’t expect that to make it easy. You’ll likely only fully understand what the hints were driving at when you finally solve the puzzle.

OSINT Skills Trained
Data Gathering. In threat intelligence, there’s no step-by-step guide to solving each problem—specialists need to think for themselves and source the particularly relevant information in each case. Tegze’s challenges will help you understand what to look for to close OSINT cases faster. 

Return of the Obra Dinn

You’ll be walking the deck and cabins, piecing things together

Next up, a critically acclaimed insurance investigation game. The crew of the eponymous ship, the Obra Dinn, have all died, and it’s up to you to establish the identity and cause of death of everyone onboard. You get a pocket watch that rewinds time to see every crewperson's exact moment of death, but the identification process is not so simple. 

To solve the case, you need to read through journals and cross-reference facts. The game is delightfully open-ended in that you have the necessary tools, but there’s no prescriptive quest structure. You need to work through the crew members methodically, return to those you’ve already identified, and be open to the chance that one little clue could change the entire picture.

OSINT Skills Trained
Deduction. The art of deductive reasoning is often portrayed as moments of inspiration in movies, but in fact, it requires the methodic review of facts to unravel events. Return of the Obra Dinn puts you in the place of the reasoner, showing how breakthroughs can emerge through joining the dots and thinking things through.

Sector035’s Quiz

While this quiz is largely aimed at beginners, it continually challenges you to dig into many vital techniques that an OSINT investigator uses daily. You’ll also be expected to apply your knowledge to disparate topics, ranging from social media investigation to metadata extraction and more. 

A good chance to master OSINT basics
OSINT Skills Trained
General OSINT Knowledge. In a fast-changing field such as open-source intelligence, your current understanding of something can quickly become obsolete. So refreshing your OSINT knowledge is a good habit to get into, even if you’re just reviewing what you already know. Plus, the diversity of the questions makes it almost sure you’ll learn something new.

Hypnospace Outlaw

Online investigation with a psychedelic twist

Our next pick is a love letter to the internet of the late '90s. The vividly colored web pages and gushing blogs in the game’s analog of the World Wide Web are reminiscent of Geocities pages (remember Geocities?). You’re a moderator tasked with keeping the Hypnospace (the in-game internet) clean by identifying and then banning users who step out of line. 

The game has a feel of authenticity in that browsing the Hypnospace is much like the internet—you need to read through texts, click hyperlinks, and deduce the passwords to restricted zones to get to the bottom of (suitably tame) crimes. It’s like an internet simulator allowing you to try your hand and online detection in a nostalgic setting.

OSINT Skills Trained
SOCMINT (Social Media Intelligence). Despite its retro aesthetic, Hypnospace Outlaw replicates many ways people interact with the online space today. This means that by playing, you are going through the motions of SOCMINT work, where the same basic principles will apply to cyberspace in the real world.

And that wraps up the first part of our guide to OSINT-related games. If you’re keen to sharpen your open-source intelligence skills but want a less formal way to do it, we really recommend you try these games out! And keep an eye out for part 2!

Need a solution to help you get real results from your OSINT skills? Let us set up a meeting with you. We’ll be able to show you first-hand how open-source intelligence tools can help you in investigative work. Simply follow the link below and pick a time that suits you!
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