Mar 06 2018

The birth of temporary intelligence and what it means for OSINT

Temporary Intelligence is a new phenomenon within social media, in the form of posts that are made at a point in time and then disappear, we take a look at what it means for intelligence gathering.

Social media doesn’t change. Does it?

In a world in which technology becomes obsolete in the blink of an eye and social media seems to evolve at lightning speed, nothing ever seems to change too much. New innovations and features are drip fed by the big players and become second nature without us realising.

So how do the social media networks ensure that the privacy savy, image conscious younger generations continue to share, engage and ultimately entertain? The answer is temporary media. This is self erasing content in the form of photos, videos and text.

Even if you are not aware, or even have a vague understanding of, social media posts that disappear after just a short time the good news is that at Netwatch we do. Let us take a moment to reflect on what we’re referring to as ‘Temporary Intelligence’ or (TEMPINT), what it means for investigators, and how Netwatch are now leveraging this through our latest tools to obtain first class intelligence for our clients.

Temporary Intelligence first emerged back in 2012 through the launch of Snapchat. During the two years after launch Snapchat gradually became a household name, with heavy financing through three funding rounds worth around $143.5 million[1]. Figures on the userbase during this period are difficult to obtain, but Snapchat estimated that by November 2013 users were sharing more images through Snapchat than Facebook, at around 400 million a day. That’s a lot of pictures!

The premise of Snapchat was (and is) that you could send images to friends that would only be viewable for around 6 seconds after being accessed – and then they were gone. Hence, they were only temporary in nature. This lead Snapchat to be synonymous with sexting, and the inevitable sharing of risqué images – and is potentially what kept it out of complete proliferation of users to the extent of Facebook.

At this point Snapchat was not of particular interest or use to open source investigation professionals because it was primarily a messaging service. Trying to access these snaps would be akin to breaking into someone’s text messages – not very open source.

In 2013 Snapchat added ‘stories’ to the product and this changed things, especially towards the tail end of 2016 when the feature was more or less mirrored by Instagram, and then by Facebook in 2017.

Stories effectively acts as a means for users to operate their own broadcast station, uploading short videos or images throughout the day (and night) to let people know what they’re doing – adorning them with commentary, location tags, or amusing stickers, and driven largely by celebrity culture. Crucially the posts are temporary and disappear after 24 hours – across all platforms.

Again figures on userbase are difficult to pin down, but Instagram in particular has certainly catapulted this social media feature into the mainstream boasting nearly 100 million more daily active users than Snapchat in August 2017, and growing rapidly.

This growth represents a potential problem for open source investigators and companies relying on social media intelligence reports – with the implication being that if more and more users move to posting on temporary platforms, there will be less information available on standard profiles.

At Netwatch rather than being worried about the rise of temporary posts, we’re excited about the prospect of leveraging these features and generating temporary intelligence reports – and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing for our existing clients.

Our initial research gives us every reason to be excited as well, with the intelligence gained from temporary posts being some of the most insightful we’ve ever encountered and users posting up to 20 times more frequently to stories than they do to their main profiles.

If you’re interested in how your organisation can benefit from our Temporary Intelligence Capture services then Netwatch would love to hear from you.

[1] They’ve since raised at least another $2.9 billion!

Learn more about Temporary Intelligence Capture from NetWatch…

At NetWatch we developed Temporary Intelligence Capture to ensure that we capture Temporary posts safely through our OSINT ToolSuite, learn more about how you can utilise this in your business today

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