9 Open Source Intelligence Tools and Techniques (OSINT Tools)

9 Open Source Intelligence Tools and Techniques (OSINT Tools)-feature image
April 24, 2024 17 Min read

Key takeways: Identifying the Open Source Intelligence that is ideal for your business or agency can effectively minimize your vulnerability to cyber-attacks. The initial step is to locate this intelligence. In this article, let’s understand the functioning of OSINT, Open Source Intelligence tools, techniques, and its strategies for safeguarding cybersecurity.

In this article, we will learn about open-source intelligence and explore the array of OSINT tools currently accessible in the market. When we perform any online search activity, we typically see multiple pages in search results. We only go through the first page and if we don’t find the desired information on it, we tend to pause our search.

However, have you ever wondered about the amount of data present within those endless pages of search results? It’s all about gathering valuable “information”! While tools play a crucial role, it’s equally important to understand how to effectively utilize them; otherwise, users may find themselves at a loss.

Therefore, before going into the specifics of the tools, let’s first grasp a clear understanding of what OSINT means and the potential benefits it offers.

What is OSINT?

OSINT full form: ‘Open-source intelligence’ refers to the procedure of gathering information from publicly available sources. IT security professionals, hackers, and intelligence experts use advanced methodologies to screen through a vast pool of data to locate specific information that aligns with their objectives.

OSINT is a part of operational security (OPSEC), which consists of the measures taken by organizations to safeguard public data. This public data, if analyzed effectively, could unveil sensitive truths.

Security teams within organizations conduct OSINT operations to strengthen their operational security. The objective is to figure out potentially sensitive information that the company might not be aware is publicly accessible.

This enables them to secure any exposed data and figure out the type of information an attacker possesses about the organization. This information plays a crucial role in risk assessment, allocation of security resources, and enhancement of security protocols and policies.

What are OSINT Techniques?

Open-source intelligence involves the collection of information from publicly accessible sources, including social media, news articles, government records, and public filings. OSINT techniques play a major role in gathering, analyzing, and interpreting this data to extract insights and guide decision-making processes.

Here are some of the common open source intelligence techniques:

  • Advanced Search Utilization: Search engines like Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo serve as major resources for collecting online information. By using advanced search operators and techniques, users can refine their searches to collect valuable information that is often overlooked.
  • Social Media Examination: Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn offer personal and professional insights/information. They can be leveraged to understand individuals’ interests, affiliations, and activities.
  • Exploration of the Open Web: Beyond social media, a wealth of information is available on the open web, including news articles, blog posts, forums, and diverse websites. By exploring these resources, you can get a comprehensive understanding of various topics and individuals.
  • Public Records Analysis: Public records databases provide a rich collection of data, including property records, court documents, and business filings. Such information is valuable for background checks and investigative purposes.
  • Tracking Digital Footprints: Online activities leave a trail or history of data, which can be traced using OSINT techniques. The data often includes reverse image searches, email header analysis, and geolocation methods.
  • Unconventional Source Exploration: Thinking creatively with OSINT involves tapping into unconventional sources, including online auctions, satellite imagery, and specialized forums.

By integrating the above-mentioned techniques, one can gather information as well as intelligence.

9 Open Source Intelligence Tools Example List

  • BuiltWith
  • Shodan
  • Google Dorks
  • Maltego
  • SpiderFoot
  • theHarvester
  • Intelligence X
  • Have I Been Pwned?
  • TinEye

OSINT plays a critical role in navigating through the vast and cluttered chaos of the information pool. We will talk about some of the widely used OSINT tools below along with their features and pros and cons. Let’s get started!

1. BuiltWith



Starting Price

₹ 20650.00 excl. GST

Built with open source intelligence framework

BuiltWith serves as a web technology profiler. This helps understand different technologies, platforms, and tech stacks used in the development of any website. It encompasses analytics platforms, advertising networks, content management systems (CMS), and more.

For instance, it helps understand whether any website uses Joomla, Drupal, or WordPress as its content management system. It further generates a list of CSS/JavaScript libraries that any website uses.

Further, by using this software, one can generate a list of different plugins that have been installed on any server information, frameworks, websites, or tracking information. Apart from that, you can also integrate BuiltWith with any website scanner like WPScan to detect the threats impacting your website.

Features of BuiltWith Open Source Intelligence Tool

  • Comprehensive analysis of over 85,000 web technologies across millions of websites.
  • Identification of marketing automation tools, analytics platforms, and hosting providers.
  • Monitoring of technology trends and market share.
  • Convenient Chrome extension for streamlined website analysis.

Who Should Use BuiltWith

  • Web developers and designers seeking insights into website architectures.
  • Marketers and sales professionals conducting competitor research and lead identification.
  • Security experts investigating potential vulnerabilities on websites.

Pros and Cons of BuiltWith


  • Impartial and factual data on website technologies.
  • Unlimited searches within free accounts.
  • Quick website analysis facilitated through the Chrome extension.


  • Free accounts put limitations on features like data export.
  • It is overwhelming for beginners to analyze a huge set of data.

2. Shodan


Shodan operates as an advanced search engine for internet-connected devices, facilitating the exploration and information gathering across devices such as servers, routers, cameras, IOTs, and industrial control systems.

It is further used to detect any vulnerabilities or open ports on systems. Moreover, some of the tools like theHarvester treat Shodan like a data source with the help of deep interaction.

It is one of the engines that help examine OTs (operational technology) used in places like manufacturing facilities and power plants.

Apart from examining devices like building sensors, cameras, security devices, and more, it can also be used to examine video games to figure out Counterstrike and Minecraft. The Freelancer license of Shodan can be used to scan around 5,120+ IP addresses/month.

Features of Shodan

  • Location-based, operating system, and specific software version-based device searches.
  • Detailed device insights encompassing ports, vulnerabilities, and banners.
  • Real-time visibility into the Internet of Things (IoT) domain.

Who Should Use Shodan

  • Security professionals engaged in vulnerability assessment for connected devices.
  • Penetration testers in search of ethical hacking targets.
  • Researchers concentrating on IoT and its associated security aspects.

Pros and Cons of Shodan


  • A potent tool for discovering and analyzing internet-connected devices.
  • Valuable resource for highlighting potential security risks.
  • Basic searches like Network Monitoring, Streaming API, etc. are available with the free tier.


  • Access to advanced features is only possible with its paid subscription.
  • Effective use requires technical proficiency.
  • Ethical considerations regarding responsible usage

3. Google Dorks

Google dork osint framework

Google Dorks are advanced search operators utilized with Google’s search syntax to find out specific types of information including keywords, file types, and website structures. Google stands out as one of the most widely used search engines for locating information on the internet.

When conducting a single search, the results encompass hundreds of pages, arranged in descending order of relevance. It showcases a wide range of content, including advertisements, websites, social media posts, images, and more.

To enhance the precision and efficiency of search results, users can employ Google Dorks to refine their searches or index the results in a more targeted manner.

If a user wishes to search “usernames” specifically within PDF files and not websites, they can use specific indexing options, such as:

Inurl:” to pinpoint a specific string within the URL of a webpage.
Intitle:” which allows searching for a keyword within the title of a webpage.
Ext:” to focus the search on a particular file extension, such as PDF.
Intext:” enabling the search for specific text contained within a webpage.

These techniques are sometimes referred to as “Google hacking” and enhance search precision and efficiency.

Features of Google Dorks

  • No software installation is required; utilizes Google’s search functionality.
  • Wide array of dorks available for diverse search.
  • Can be combined with other search operators for enhanced precision.

Who Should Use Google Dorks

  • Security professionals for identifying vulnerabilities and leaked data.
  • Investigators pursuing specific online data.
  • Competitive intelligence analysts for researching rivals’ websites.

Pros and Cons of Google Dorks


  • Accessible and free to employ.
  • Wide range of resources for finding specific online information.
  • Its user community is actively sharing and developing new dorks.


  • Effectiveness changes as per the Google’s algorithm.
  • Unethical use leads to privacy and data breach concerns.

4. Maltego


Maltego by Paterva is widely used by security experts and forensic investigators to gather and scrutinize open-source intelligence. It facilitates the collection of information from diverse sources and applies different Transforms to produce visual representations of data.

The Transforms are pre-installed and can also be tailored to specific needs. Developed in Java, Maltego is included in Kali Linux as a pre-packaged tool. Users need to register to use Maltego, and the registration process is free of charge. After registration, users can use this tool to establish the online footprint of a specific target.

Moreover, Maltego works as a link analysis tool for open-source intelligence inquiries and threat evaluations. It facilitates mapping relationships among individuals, entities, infrastructure, and assorted data nodes.

Top Features of Maltego

  • Relationship visualization to spot patterns and connections.
  • Integration with multiple data sources for thorough investigations.
  • Pre-installed transforms for custom insights.

Who Should Use Maltego

  • Cybersecurity specialists probing digital threats and adversary setups.
  • Law enforcement entities executing inquiries and linkage analyses.
  • Financial crime examiners tracking doubtful monetary activities.

Pros and Cons of Maltego


  • Identifies intricate web connections in investigations.
  • Tailored entities and transforms for precise data scrutiny.
  • Interoperability with threat intelligence for enhanced insights.


  • Steeper learning curve.
  • A subscription is required for advanced features like financial crime examination.

5. SpiderFoot


SpiderFoot is a no-cost tool that connects with various data sources to collect and analyze multiple elements like IP addresses, domains, email addresses, phone numbers, Bitcoin addresses, and more. It is accessible on GitHub and offers a command-line interface alongside an integrated web server for a user-friendly web-based GUI experience.

With a repository of over 200 modules, Spiderfoot is perfect for red teaming tasks, allowing users to extract extensive information about their targets or identify online exposures of themselves and their organization.

Features of SpiderFoot

  • Automated data collation from an extensive spectrum of sources.
  • Report generation for identified details like IP addresses, related domains, and social platforms.
  • Module for catering to niche search (e.g., geolocation, WHOIS particulars).

Who Should Use SpiderFoot

  • Security professionals use it for threat intelligence gathering, penetration testing (reconnaissance phase), and security research.
  • IT professionals use it to identify potential online security risks faced by their organizations.
  • Law Enforcement uses it as it helps in investigative processes.

Pros and Cons of SpiderFoot


  • Access to a wide range of data sources for comprehensive intelligence gathering
  • User-friendly interface for efficient data visualization and analysis
  • Free and open-source, providing accessibility to all users


  • Dependency on publicly available data, which leads to incomplete or outdated information
  • Requires a certain level of technical expertise for effective setup and use
  • Unsuitable for real-time investigations due to data gathering time constraints

6. theHarvester

TheHarvester osint open source intelligence

theHarvester is designed to extract public information beyond an organization’s internal network. It primarily focuses on external sources, making it valuable for penetration testing activities. This tool uses various sources including search engines like Bing and Google, dogpile, DNSdumpster, Exalead meta data engine, Netcraft Data Mining, and AlienVault Open Threat Exchange.

Additionally, it leverages the Shodan search engine to identify open ports on identified hosts by gathering emails, names, subdomains, IPs, and URLs. Accessing most public sources with ease, theHarvester requires specific API keys for certain sources and a Python 3.6 or higher environment.

Features of theHarvester

  • Data extraction from search engines, social media platforms, and PGP key servers.
  • Support for varied search modules tailored for specific data types (e.g., emails, hosts).
  • Basic filtering options and the output formatting support.

Who Should Use theHarvester

  • Security professionals during the phase of penetration testing.
  • OSINT investigators seeking preliminary insights about target domains.
  • Competitive intelligence analysts gathering intelligence on their competitors’ websites.

Pros and Cons of theHarvester


  • Free and open source with simple installation and operation.
  • Effective for initial data accumulation on domains or organizations.
  • Versatile support for diverse search modules focusing on different information types.


  • Limited features compared to paid OSINT tools.
  • Requires technical proficiency for command-line interface operation.

7. Intelligence X

Intelligence X

Intelligence X is a search engine preserving old web pages and removing leaked datasets for objectionable or legal reasons. Unlike Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, Intelligence X focuses on preserving all types of datasets without discrimination.

It has archived sensitive data such as vulnerable Fortinet VPN lists, exposed plaintext passwords, emails from political figures, Capitol Hill riot footage, and Facebook’s 533 million leaked profiles, providing valuable insights to intel collectors, analysts, journalists, and researchers.

Features of Intelligence X

  • Data from internal security systems, threat feeds, public data.
  • Advanced analytics and threat modeling capabilities.
  • Automation of workflows and tasks expediting threat detection and response.

Who Should Use Intelligence X

  • Security Operations Centers (SOCs) for centralized threat oversight.
  • Security analysts involved in investigating and addressing security incidents.
  • Proactive threat hunters undertaking the identification and analysis of potential threats.

Pros and Cons of Intelligence X


  • Streamlines threat scrutiny and investigation procedures.
  • Boosts threat detection and response competencies.
  • Visualization tools for security data presentation.


  • Cost implications on features and deployment options.
  • Requires skilled personnel for effective data management and interpretation.
  • Faces information overload if not properly configured.

8. Have I Been Pwned?

Have I Been Pwned

Have I Been Pwned? (HIBP) by Troy Hunt facilitates users to verify if their email address has been compromised in any documented data breaches. It checks for any email data breach for user verification, which is especially valuable for confirming the existence of an email address.

HIBP remains the top choice for quickly searching email addresses and contact numbers in these data leaks, and the best part is that it’s entirely free to use.

Features of Have I Been Pwned?

  • Email address search to cross-reference with listed data breaches.
  • Details on breach type, exposed data, and origin provided.
  • Notification of potential future breaches involving the user’s email.

Who Should Use Have I Been Pwned?

  • Those who are concerned about their online security and potential data breaches.
  • Security professionals validating data breach information.
  • Individuals seeking guidance regarding potential breach responses.

Pros and Cons of Have I Been Pwned?


  • Free and accessible service for breach exposure verification.
  • Transparent data on breaches and compromised information.
  • Increases awareness about online security and password hygiene.


  • Only focuses on email address breaches, excluding other personal data.
  • Absence of automatic protection against future breaches.

Types of OSINT (Open Source Intelligence Tools)

There are different types of OSINTs present in the market to collect and analyze publicly available information and gain insights into individuals, organizations, or events.

The different types of OSINT include social media, news media, web-based, open-data, government, images, and more. Through these techniques, investigators can gather information about their target effectively.

  • Social Media: Acquisition of information from social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. It helps understand people’s interests, preferences, likes/dislikes, affiliations, and activities.
  • Web-based: Gathering of information from websites, blogs, forums, and other online sources to find insights about a company’s products, services, and financial performance.
  • News Media: The information gathered from news articles, press releases, and other media sources to track current events and identify potential threats.
  • Government: Collection of information from government websites, public records, and other authoritative sources to gain insights into laws, regulations, and government programs.
  • Open Data: Retrieval of information from government agencies, NGOs, and other organizations offering publicly available data to understand demographics, economics, and social trends.
  • Image (GEOINT): The extraction of data from images and videos to identify locations, verify events, and track movements.
  • Domain: Procuring information about domain names and IP addresses to identify website owners and track their history.
  • Phone Number: Fetching phone numbers to identify owners and track their current or real-time locations.

Why is OSINT Important?

Within IT, fulfilling three key tasks is essential for OSINT. These include identifying public-facing assets, searching for external information, and organizing discovered data for actionable insights. Let’s understand them in detail:

1. Identifying Public-facing Assets

The primary function of OSINT is to assist IT teams in discovering public-facing assets and analyzing the information each asset holds, contributing to potential vulnerabilities.

The focus lies in documenting publicly available details about company assets, excluding tasks like identifying program vulnerabilities or conducting market penetration tests.

2. Searching for External Relevant Information

Open-source intelligence technique seeks pertinent information beyond the organization’s boundaries. It includes social media content or data from domains and locations outside a tightly controlled network.

This feature proves especially important for organizations undergoing frequent acquisitions, integrating IT assets from merged companies.

3. Organizing Discovered Data for Actionable Insights

Lastly, OSINT helps in organizing and categorizing the gathered information into actionable intelligence. Conducting an OSINT scan for a large enterprise can yield a substantial volume of results.

Streamlining this data and prioritizing critical issues can significantly enhance operational efficiency.

Detailed OSINT Framework

The open source intelligence framework serves as a repository of data sources and links leading to useful tools for data exploration and organization. It offers multiple tools to devise a search strategy inclined towards specific data types, such as vehicle registration details or email addresses, for optimal results.

One of the reasons behind the popularity is the abundance of OSINT tools designed for Linux systems. Moreover, this directory presents tools that can be conveniently operated via a web browser, with installation options available for various operating systems.

The collection of open source information tools enables users to uncover information ranging from basic phone numbers to IP addresses and email addresses, along with capabilities for delving into the Dark Web and analyzing potentially malicious files.

Beginners can benefit from tutorials and interactive games to get help with information exploration, with additional resources like software solutions for Virtual Machines.

The OSINT Framework includes training sections featuring guides on research methods. This foundational knowledge can empower users to navigate the extensive list of tools and data sources effectively for targeted research.

Compare Top 9 OSINT Tools with Features

ParametersBuiltWithShodanGoogle DorksMaltegoSpiderFoottheHarvesterIntelligence XHave I Been Pwned?TinEye
TypeOSINT ToolVulnerability ScannerSearch EngineLink Analysis ToolOSINT ToolOSINT ToolPaid Recon ToolData Breach CheckerReverse Image Search
Data SourceWebsitesPublicly Available DevicesSearch Engines: GooglePublic Data SourcesPublic Data Sources and APIsPublic Data Sources, APIsPrivate DatabasesInbuilt DatabasePublic Images
TargetWebsitesDevices (IoT, Servers etc.)Websites & FilesEntities (People, Companies etc.)Websites & EmailsWebsites, Emails, Nameservers etc.People, Organizations, AssetsEmail AddressesImages
FeaturesTechnology Identification, Contact Info, Lead GenerationSearch for Vulnerable Devices, Exploit DiscoveryFind Specific Websites & Files, Competitive IntelligenceLink Visualization, Entity Relationship MappingSocial Media Monitoring, IP Geolocation, DNS RecordsEmail Discovery, Web Enumeration, Pastebin ScrapingDark Web Monitoring, Social Listening, Leak DetectionCheck for Breached Email AddressesFind Similar or Related Images
CostFreemiumFreemium & Paid PlansFreePaidFreemium & Paid PlansFree & Paid PlansPaidFreeFree


The significance of OSINT against cyber threats is very important. The access to an array of open source intelligence tools enables security professionals and investigators to gather, scrutinize, and interpret publicly available information for crucial insights.

By identifying public-facing assets, searching for external relevant data, and organizing discovered information, these tools contribute to assessing vulnerabilities, conducting threat evaluations, and enhancing operational security.

Leveraging OSINT techniques like social media examination, advanced search utilization, and open data retrieval, OSINT facilitates comprehensive information gathering.

Additionally, these solutions offer a rich repository of tools and resources, empowering users to analyze varied data sources effectively. Open source intelligence tools play a crucial role in enhancing cybersecurity practices and contributing to informed decision-making for organizations and investigative activities.

Top Open Source Intelligence Tools FAQs

  1. What is an open-source intelligence tool?

    An open-source intelligence tool is software used to gather and analyze publicly available information from various sources such as the internet, social media, and public records. These tools help in information collection, threat analysis, and decision-making in fields like cybersecurity and intelligence operations.

  2. What is intelligence from open source?

    Open-source intelligence refers to the practice of gathering and analyzing information from publicly available sources like social media, the internet, and public records. It provides valuable insights for various purposes, including cybersecurity, threat analysis, and strategic decision making.

  3. How many types of OSINT are there?

    There are multiple types of OSINT available including social media, news media, web-based, open-data, government, images, and more. Using the combination of different types of OSINT, investigators can effectively gather important information about their target. These distinct approaches offer different methods for intelligence collection and analysis from open sources.

  4. What is an example of OSINT?

    An example of OSINT is monitoring social media platforms for public information such as tweets, posts, or photos to gather intelligence. This practice involves analyzing publicly available data from different sources to extract relevant insights for various purposes like security assessments, investigations, and threat monitoring.

Written by Namrata Samal

Namrata is a skilled content writer with an expertise in writing marketing, tech, business-related topics, and more. She has been writing since 2021 and has written several write-ups. With her journey with Techjockey, she has worked on different genres of content like product descriptions, tech articles, alternate pages,... Read more

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