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Top OSINT Films and Series: Part 1

Learning about OSINT and best practices isn’t only about reading and searching. Movies and series can also be great learning tools. Of course, that’s when many realize that “OSINT” doesn’t return many titles on IMDb (we checked). So the real question becomes how to find things to watch to expand our knowledge. Don’t worry; we have you covered!

In this article, we share our (spoiler-free) picks for the best documentaries and docu-series featuring authentic applications of OSINT. There is no hierarchy; choose one that seems exciting and enjoy the show. We also outlined an element of OSINT that features prominently for every entry. So grab your popcorn and get ready to see the power of open-source intelligence in action.

Don’t F*ck with Cats

Let's kick things off with our furry friends, cats! These majestic creatures are the darlings of the Internet. When any harm befalls these adorable beings, online communities can't help but unleash their fury. In one such incident, a video depicting the gruesome killing of two kittens went viral, igniting a firestorm of outrage. Enter a group of amateur sleuths armed with OSINT techniques, determined to track down the perpetrator and bring him to justice.

A word of warning, this series tackles an uncomfortable subject, and the details discussed are not for the faint of heart. However, it offers a valuable glimpse into how seemingly unrelated fragments of information can come together to form a comprehensive picture. It's a fascinating journey showcasing the OSINT mindset's power in cracking criminal cases. So, if you're up for delving into the darker side of the internet to see a robust investigation, this one is for you.

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OSINT Highlight: Image and Geospatial Analysis.
The amateur detectives employ a combination of open-source intelligence techniques throughout their investigation. Applying image analysis, they scrutinize visual evidence, honing in on key details to narrow their search for the cat killer. Additionally, through geospatial analysis, sleuths painstakingly cross-reference gathered information to verify locations, ensuring accuracy and reliability.

The Tinder Swindler

Second on our list, we dive into the world of romance scams—a highly sensitive and personal form of fraud. This documentary sheds light on the intricate web of deception, focusing on the case of an Israeli fraudster who swindled young women out of a staggering $10M. The film reveals the elaborate lies and manipulations employed. It takes us on a journey alongside journalists who meticulously connect the dots, unraveling the truth behind the scam.

The documentary provides many instances where the investigators employ basic OSINT techniques to stop more women from getting scammed. Moreover, the documentary prompts viewers to contemplate ways to enhance global fraud detection, highlighting the potential for improvement in the current climate. The subject matter is becoming more and more relevant with the global increase in social media scams.

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OSINT Highlight: Digital Footprinting. Journalist Uri Blau uses his knowledge of Hebrew to assist in the search for the fraudster, triggering a crucial turning point. The film showcases textbook open-source intelligence techniques, empowering specialists to respond swiftly to global criminal maneuvers. Through meticulous tracking and cross-referencing of known information, the team successfully verifies the identity of the con man.

Cyber ​​Hell: Exposing an Internet Horror

Third, we're taking a trip to South Korea, where a chatroom turned into a horrifying center for sexual abuse. This eye-opening documentary follows a group of amateur detectives and law enforcement as they work to expose and shut down the platform. The criminals were blackmailing young girls to force them into creating explicit content.

While illegal chatrooms are not uncommon on the Dark Web, what sets this case apart is that it happened on the popular messaging app Telegram. This gives us a unique glimpse into how investigators can tackle such platforms. The documentary presents the anonymity dilemma, showcases the role of OSINT in uncovering suspects' identities, and highlights the skills digital investigators need to handle complex cases.

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OSINT Highlight: Messenger Monitoring and Cryptocurrency Tracing. The team tracking down the criminals employs various techniques during their investigation. Since the Telegram group required payments in cryptocurrencies to access explicit content, the investigators dive into the world of blockchain analysis. Complex cases like this require collaboration between different expert groups.

Web of Make-Believe: Death, Lies & the Internet

Next, we have a documentary series that delves into the disturbing intersection of online users and law enforcement. Covering cases of lethal swatting incidents to the troubling world of white supremacy, the series provides detailed recaps of what transpired and how investigators managed to resolve the cases. The show paints a grim picture of the world, and interviews with victims offer a firsthand glimpse into the lasting impact caused by these malicious actors.

One of the notable aspects of the series is its deep dive into the twisted mindset of these offenders, presenting insights that help viewers better comprehend their tactics. This makes it particularly valuable for those interested in OSINT, as it encourages thinking outside the box. While the show can be challenging, it's worth watching for its unique perspective.

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OSINT Highlight: Social Media Intelligence (SOCMINT) and Fraud Detection. Each episode highlights various investigative techniques, with two key areas deserving special mention. The first is examining the impact of social media in spreading misinformation to reveal valuable insights. The second is the importance of financial intelligence in uncovering and tracking fraudulent activities, showcased in a massive fraud case.

D.B. Cooper: Where Are You?!

Next, we go back to 1971. The story has become a global phenomenon: one man hijacks a plane, demands $200k, and parachutes out in the middle of the night, never to be seen again. The documentary mini-series follows the known story, with interviews of experts and even witnesses. The result is a larger-than-life legacy of a man no one knows and many amateur detectives who are still on the case 50 years later.

At its core, this is a story about obsession. The series presents an exciting look at a cultural phenomenon from one man’s life-long investigation of the now-mythical criminal to the public’s perception of the thief as an anti-hero. However, the still-ongoing search happens through the lens of OSINT, which presents value for specialists and hobbyists alike.

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OSINT Highlight: Tracking of Public Records. Most of the investigations that amateur D.B. Cooper enthusiasts conduct involve detailed analysis of public records. The docu-series shows that much compelling evidence can be extracted from publicly available information.

The Most Hated Man on the Internet

Our next entry is a docu-series focusing on a website that became the hub of revenge porn: the distribution of sexually explicit images and videos without consent. The show details how the website 'Is Anyone Up?' got started and how it came to light that hacking played a pivotal role in obtaining a lot of explicit content from users. The narrative focuses on the mother of one of the victims and her unrelenting quest to get her daughter's photos taken down.

The film serves as a deep dive into the consequences of privacy violations and the toxic masculine culture that enables such platforms to operate. The website's owner is shown to be a cult figure, revered by his followers. This paints an unsettling picture of the general atmosphere in which such criminal actions result. Overall, the central hook of the documentary serves as a lesson demonstrating the capability of open-source intelligence.

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OSINT Highlight: SOCMINT. The mother tracks down the other victims of the website to help her daughter, and social media provides plenty of ways for the victims to connect and gather information on the perpetrators. In this case, the movie focuses more on the amateur application of investigative techniques; however, it still paints an accurate picture.

Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World

Next, we’re focusing on citizen journalism. Bellingcat has become synonymous with open-source intelligence and its incredible investigation opportunities. Made up of a collective of specialists, the documentary details how the team cuts through the noise and fake news and uses OSINT techniques to uncover scandals. The movie is a fascinating look at journalistic integrity and how every individual, in theory, has the tools to report the truth.

The film provides a detailed look at the destabilizing power of journalism and how public perception can sway in wildly different ways depending on the context of information. In addition, plenty of OSINT techniques are at play throughout the documentary, from gathering intelligence to analyzing and cross-referencing data. It provides a fascinating look into what goes on during an investigation and the aftermath.

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OSINT Highlight: Digital Footprinting. Journalism requires comprehensive awareness, and the documentary shows how a collective of volunteer specialists accomplish their goals through computers. Diving into social media, messengers, and more, the film highlights how a complete picture forms and how that information goes public.

The Great Hack

Next, let's dive into the infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal that brought data mining into the spotlight. This film takes us on a journey alongside researchers and investigative journalists as they delve deeper into the events’ intricacies and significance. It serves as a crucial reminder of a pivotal moment in cybersecurity and data privacy. Following the revelations, public outcry reshaped how data mining operates and corporations' responsibilities in safeguarding it.

Although the entry doesn't explicitly introduce OSINT as an investigative method, its impact on the broader open-source intelligence landscape is profound. Consequently, this documentary holds immense value for investigators, expanding their knowledge base and providing valuable insights. It's definitely a must-watch for anyone interested in the field.

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OSINT Highlight: Data Privacy. The scandal shed light on the need for stricter regulations and greater transparency in tech companies' handling of user data. It prompted a reevaluation of privacy practices, leading to increased public awareness and a call for stronger data protection measures to safeguard individuals' personal information in the digital age.

Why Did You Kill Me?

Up next, we have a reminder of what a parent can do to serve justice for their child. The documentary focuses on the mother of a young woman who died in a random gang shooting. Detailing the plan to uncover the killer through the social media platform MySpace, the movie is an exciting take on vigilante activities. As the mother takes matters into her own hands, she and her family contact and start catfishing the gang members they think are behind the killing.

The film depicts the family putting themselves in direct contact with a hazardous criminal group through social media. Armed with the knowledge to make everything look authentic online, the documentary shows the minute details and knowledge required to conduct effective investigations. This one is a watch for any specialist who deals with social platforms.

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OSINT Highlight: Sock Puppet Accounts. The film presents effective insights into the little details that investigators must keep track of to make their communications through fake profiles (sock puppets) seem genuine. It is a tightrope walk, to say the least, but the effectiveness in solving cases is undeniable.

Reddit Ruined Their Lives: The Innocent Victims Of Internet Justice

Last but not least, we are reminded of the power and dangers of amateur OSINT. Reddit is famous for its Internet sleuths, untrained true-crime enthusiasts who, in their spare time, investigate the latest viral criminal case. The YouTube video details several instances when Reddit users jumped on a case and got it wrong. In the process, the users managed to cause significant stress for innocent people.

Online users tend to come together and act fast when they feel they can solve a crime without law enforcement. While there are some cases that amateur detectives did solve through collaboration and the application of open-source intelligence, it’s important to remember that it is essentially mass speculation. This shows that while OSINT is powerful, one should not jump to conclusions and collaborate with law enforcement whenever possible.

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OSINT Highlight: Image Analysis. The amateur detectives employ various techniques, and while they are ultimately wrong, it goes to show how much information a single still image can provide. Data such as the criminals' geographic location and victims' physical identifiers can blow a case wide open.

Watching any of our recommendations will show you how powerful OSINT can be when applied to your investigations. But if you want to explore the opportunities open-source intelligence provides for investigations, we’re here to help! Just fill out a short request form, and we’ll schedule a personal demonstration to cover all your questions at a convenient time.

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