An “open source” background check is performed by utilizing the internet as an investigative tool to research an individual, sometimes organizations but mostly individuals.
They key difference between an OSINT background check and a regular background check that is usually performed for employment or licensing is that, with OSINT checks, there is a large effort placed on researching the individual through open-source means:
The public internet.
The non-OSINT background checks are typically performed by just placing the individual’s name in private databases such as,
FBI and Other Federal Records
Searching these types of databases is much less time consuming then OSINT research and can be completed by regular civilians, as long as they know which databases to use.
However, there is a tremendous amount of intelligence on individuals available through open-source. Researching an individual through open-source is a service a Cyber Investigator working in open-source intelligence (OSINT) will accomplish for private clients.
Even though an OSINT background check will heavily involve open-source, a Cyber Investigator will also research individuals on databases.
The Cyber Investigator will typically use intel gained on these databases to corroborate their open-source investigation.
Meaning, the Investigator can better prove that the subject of the open-source investigation is the correct individual.
Open-source intelligence background checks can involve quite a lot of research:
social media presence
an individual’s personal history
These OSINT background check investigations will often occur at a desk and utilize the internet in-conjunction with multiple phone calls. Researching individuals via phone calls is not open-source; however, skilled OSINT Investigators still know how to get helpful intel from communicating with associates of the subject.
An important part of performing an OSINT background check will involve verifying an individual’s past and also verifying an individual's identity using the types of databases mentioned previously. This is a great place to start an open-source investigation because it will give the OSINT Investigator information on the subject that is not indexed on search engines and also information on the subject that will corroborate their open-source research that is based on indexed material. An example of this can be finding a date of birth on a database, then a social media account with the same name and DOB. Now the intel gained from that social media account is corroborated, because of the database.
OSINT Background Check Resources
When conducting an OSINT background check on an individual, a Cyber Investigator will often perform a fair amount of phone calls. This happens a lot when verifying educational degrees or business history. Employers will often phone references in regards to researching whether or not an individual is an appropriate fit for a job. However, the services of an OSINT Investigator will often be used for researching individuals related to an important business deal or candidates of a high profile job position. This research will also be performed via phone calls, with the OSINT Investigator being skilled at obtaining information through these phone calls.
After databases and phone calls, the OSINT Investigator will do what they do best:
utilize the internet as an investigative tool to research the subject's personal history
Obviously, searching social media platforms will be an important part of this OSINT background check process. However, a lot of on-line information can be found on an individual outside of social media. There could be many mentions of the individual on various websites. Many people have a poor grasp on searching the internet. A non-OSINT Investigator could find a few pieces of information when searching the internet. However, a skilled OSINT Investigator will be able to find all relevant information and be able to accurately verify and document it properly. This is why, even with a simple background check task, an experienced and skilled OSINT Investigator should always be used.
About the Author
Peter Sandru is an Instructor & Co-Founder of NDIL with over 14 years as a Professional Investigator and certified OSINT Investigator. Peter has spent more than a decade conducting investigations throughout the world, primarily for corporations, law firms, and government agencies. Peter has assisted in the creation of many investigative training programs in various capacities. Over the length his career, Peter has performed numerous open-source intelligence investigations on individuals and organizations.