Thinking Beyond
the Operational Domain

Thinking Beyond
the Operational Domain

How open-source intelligence is contributing to a superior situation report

In conflict situations, digital media in particular play an increasing role – as an active instrument of conflict management and for passive reconnaissance. HENSOLDT uses publicly available information for a more comprehensive situation report and adds a virtual dimension to its sensor portfolio. Information superiority comes from the intelligent combination of all instruments.

For decades, the history of military conflicts has gone hand in hand with the development of the media. In World War II, radio broadcasts were used for propaganda. Vietnam was the first war to be shown in detail on television. In the first Iraq war, the CNN news network was pioneering with its live cable TV broadcasts. During the second Iraq war, live coverage shifted to the Internet, commonly referred to as the “YouTube war.” And Russia’s war against Ukraine has most recently made it clear that the conflicts of today, and even more so the conflicts of the future, are also taking place and being decided in social media.

The actors are targeting social trust in order to strengthen it in their own camp and undermine it elsewhere. The opponent, their forces, and society as well as the global environment are deliberately influenced and destabilized. Social media in particular thus become an instrument of hybrid conflict.

At the same time, content from (social) media also provides valuable information. Classic reporting, and above all information and photos shared online in social networks as well as data from smartphones, provide information about relevant events, troop locations, and movements. This applies equally to communications in the military context and in everyday civilian life. Captured messages allow further valuable conclusions to be drawn about the equipment and condition of the parties to the conflict. This creates a comprehensive set of potentially relevant data points that must be used intelligently.

OSINT – Knowledge Advantage for Security, Defence, and Superiority

HENSOLDT Analytics uses OSINT (open-source intelligence) to develop solutions that make raw data strategically useful as information. For this purpose, all publicly available sources – and only those – are evaluated. From traditional and social media to video, streaming, and photo sharing platforms to newsletters and podcasts, a large amount of text, image, video, and audio material in 30 languages is comprehensively collected and analyzed.

HENSOLDT uses the decades of experience of its specialists for this purpose. With OSINT, the experts have developed solutions that can automatically analyze the almost infinite amount of data within a very short time with the help of artificial intelligence. The storage and processing of all data takes place entirely on the HENSOLDT customers’ premises without the use of external cloud services. This additionally increases data security and speed.

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OSINT finds the proverbial needles in the digital haystack from the multitude of sources within a few seconds and generates a comprehensive overview without external effort. Information obtained from content disseminated by the media in current or future areas of operation allows early conclusions to be drawn: Moods in population groups become transparently comprehensible. Potential threats are identified in good time and targeted false information (fake news) intended to manipulate emergency forces or the population is uncovered. OSINT information thus provides an important knowledge base and becomes an integral part of strategic decisions, creating a virtual sensor system.

The system is further developed in such a way that the information from classic sensor technology – radar and satellite images, for instance – is also included in the assessment. Again, artificial intelligence is used to combine the results with those from OSINT applications. The result is an integrated situation report, which – clearly prepared – contains all important information.

More than 30 customers already rely on OSINT solutions from HENSOLDT. As a stand-alone application or in combination with classic sensor technology, they ensure greater security, more effective defence, and superiority in the information space. As a pioneer in the industry, HENSOLDT supports the military and intelligence services as well as government agencies and the civilian sector. OSINT solutions play a special role when classic sensors for the electromagnetic spectrum cannot be used on site or can only be used to a limited extent.

Room with many places with monitors. In the middle is a large screen marked Hensoldt
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Graphic summarizing AI. On the left is a box that says OSINT and contains icons from various media such as video players or a globe. On the right is a box that says IMINT and contains icons of a satellite, a ship, and more. Under both boxes are a desktop monitor, a laptop, and a tablet

Three Steps to the Goal HENSOLDT takes a three-step approach to achieving a comprehensive knowledge advantage in conflict situations:

  • 1. IMINT (Imagery Intelligence) provides an overview of physical space from aircraft radars and aerial as well as satellite imagery, for example.
  • 2. OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) captures publicly available media and sources and evaluates text, speech, images, and videos.
  • 3. AI (artificial intelligence) filters out the relevant information and uses it to create an understandable and comprehensive integrated situation report.
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Photo of Anne-Lynn Dudenhöfer

Anne-Lynn Dudenhöfer Intel Desk Lead, HENSOLDT Analytics, Vienna
In her podcast, “The Intelligence Brief,” Anne-Lynn Dudenhöfer discusses with experts how innovative OSINT strategies are being applied in the security and defence sector.

Relevant Insights”

Anne-Lynn Dudenhöfer is Intel Desk Lead at HENSOLDT Analytics. Previously a data analyst at the Landeskriminalamt (State Criminal Police Office) Berlin and a researcher at the Psychologische Hochschule Berlin, she has focused her research on counterterrorism, international security, extremism, and radicalization in the digital space. Her master’s degrees at the University of Oxford (United Kingdom) and Uppsala University (Sweden) focused primarily on criminology and conflict studies.

In which cases is OSINT from HENSOLDT already being used?

“Already today, OSINT can provide relevant information in almost all military and civil conflict situations and thus support decision-making. One example: In northern Mozambique, the conflict between the government and jihadist rebels, particularly the group known as Ansar al-Sunna, has been intensifying since 2017. It has now claimed several thousand lives. The COVID‑19 pandemic has once again significantly exacerbated the situation in the region. As part of a research project with partners, we have used OSINT methods and successfully combined them with air-to-ground reconnaissance. In addition, we are already combining OSINT with other technologies such as our Imaginary Intelligence (IMINT) image analysis.”

What specific results have been achieved in Mozambique through OSINT?

“Initially, HENSOLDT used OSINT to get an overview of the issues being discussed on social media – in English, French, and Arabic. From this, we obtained relevant insights about the conflict sectors, which we verified with satellite images and then evaluated again with OSINT. This allowed us to identify typical behavior patterns of jihadists after an attack and derive patterns that can help decision makers develop countermeasures.”

What other potential applications does OSINT offer?

“The potential applications of OSINT are just as diverse in the civilian sector. Here is an example as well: HENSOLDT used OSINT, for example, to study migration flows across the new Balkan route through Greece and Albania. This gave us insight into how and where people are moving, what issues they are communicating about, what media and content they are consuming, and how they perceive Europe. At the same time, we were able to investigate how migrants are perceived in the destination country. Not only did this give us an up-to-date and comprehensive picture of the situation, but we were also able to identify push and pull factors of migration that are very relevant for migration policy and preventing humanitarian emergencies.”