It was December 3, 2018 when a group of OSINT enthusiasts, that would start The OSINT Curious Project (TOCP), met each other in the Dutch town of Papendal. It was the start of the three-day conference, called DEX-XL, organised by Dutch law enforcement. The people involved were all invited as speakers at this conference, and so Micah Hoffman, Nico Dekens, Loránd Bodó, Technisette, Benjamin Strick and me, Sector035, all met each other in person for the first time. Every evening we would come together and share stories and experiences from within our line of work. And on the last evening we came to the conclusion that when it came to the quality of online information regarding open source intelligence, there was a lot to be desired.
Loránd Bodó – @lorandbodo:
“It all started with an idea to help people learn about Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) and fast-forward a few years later, TOCP has become the largest project of its kind. I still remember the night where we sat in that conference room and talked about this site that everyone would use to learn about OSINT. Little that we knew, Micah had already an awesome name for us and even owned the domain name – OSINTcurio.us”
After Bellingcat gained momentum a few years prior, it seemed everybody wanted to be in on the success and share their own knowledge. But we all agreed that not everything shared online was up to par with the best practices. During the last evening of the conference evening, on December 5, we came up with the idea that we should create a place where people would be able to read about open source intelligence and investigative techniques, that was of a higher quality, actionable, and free of charge.
Ritu Gill – @OSINTtechniques:
For years OSINT Curious has been a one stop shop for learning OSINT basics and learning advanced OSINT techniques. In my eyes, it has been a great collective effort over the years to put out content that OSINT investigators were able to leverage.
We quickly started writing blog articles on all sorts of topics, to share our own knowledge with the world. I still remember the memorable article about vicarious trauma from Nico, and the articles with tips for people just starting out within this line of work. It showed we didn’t only care about techniques, but we almost treated open source intelligence as a way of life.
Matthias Wilson – @MwOsint:
“I don’t exactly recall when, maybe during a board meeting or one of the webcasts, as someone referred to TOCP as the “Avengers of OSINT”. Now I’m not too familiar with the Marvel Universe, but in my mind the Avengers were fighting for good – something I think we at TOCP did as well, of course in a different context. Much like the real Avengers, each of us had a different skill set, and together we packed quite an OSINT-punch.”
After some articles, we quickly started the ’10-minute tips’ and ‘webcasts’, where we shared our knowledge by uploading videos to YouTube. During the webcasts, we directly interacted with our community, teaching people, but we also learned a lot from our viewers.
Christina Lekati – @christinalekati:
“One of our main goals was to share accurate, actionable OSINT tips, to promote good professional practices, and to make our knowledge available to others. But this was a 2-way street as we ended up learning a great deal from our members and expanded our horizons too. Thank you for that!”
Over time we made some changes to the format of the webcast, we extracted the audio and used it for a podcast, and started making a monthly OSINT News & Tools. In that we looked back at the previous month and talked about anything related to open source investigations and tools. We were always looking to try and find new ways to share information with our followers.
Inês Narciso – @IWN_LX:
This group of people giving back to the community that saw them grow, chipping in with their time, knowledge and privacy. So for me, much more than being Curious, what really unites us, is the belief that in an ever changing and ethically fragile work like Osint, the only thing that could make a difference is to pay it forward.
And it wasn’t just about sharing our knowledge, because Micah Hoffman loved playing GeoGuessr, usually with some help of our viewers. It quickly became the norm to play a few rounds, also including some of the guests we invited, before we went to the news or an interview. More than once our viewers shared their own knowledge, sent links or tips in the chat, which we could include in our webcast.
John TerBush – @TheGumshoo:
“Looking back, I think the most enjoyable part of this project for me was doing our webcasts and livestreams. Interacting with our guests and viewers was always great fun. We met some really interesting people, and learned a lot!”
It was in July 2021 when the opportunity presented itself to collaborate with the SearchLight Discord, and we were more than honoured to join hands. Over time, the admins of that Discord server showed the same passion for OSINT as we did, and built a huge community of knowledgable enthusiasts.
Espen Ringstad – @Zewensec:
We built a Discord community for discussions, resource sharing and method development – a community who recently hit 10 000 members. We made friends along the way and some even used TOCP as a platform for personal career development, myself included.
And we indeed changed lives, since some of our followers have chosen a career as fact-checker, are working at NGO’s to investigating crimes, or are using open source investigation during their daily live in another capacity.
Rae Baker – @wondersmith_rae:
“Being able to create content and interact with the community in relevant and educational ways has inspired me to do some of the hardest and most rewarding things I have done in my short OSINT career.”
Some also have found that their passion for open source intelligence was so strong, that they changed jobs and are now at the forefront of teaching open source intelligence, like Steven ‘Nixintel’ Harris.
Steven Harris – @Nixintel:
“There are some really bad people behind bars because of the insights and techniques that TOCP members have shared over the past few years. For me personally I can honestly say that joining The OSINT Curious Project in 2019 probably did more for my professional development than anything else up to that point.”
And now, a bit over four years later, we can proudly say that we have achieved what we aimed to do back in 2018. We shared our passion with a large community of OSINT enthusiasts, teaching others while learning ourselves along the way.
Lisette – @Technisette:
“Over the last few years I’ve enjoyed being on our regular webcasts and writing blogs for everyone who was interested in SOCMint [Social Media Intelligence], website investigations, dark web and more! Of course, I hope you enjoyed viewing or reading them and maybe learned some new tricks and helped you further in developing your skills.”
But all good things come to an end, also this initiative. It has become nearly impossible to keep up the level of quality that we aim for, while having demanding jobs ourselves. We decided that we would be joining hands once more, in the form of this blog post and one more live stream.
I am grateful for everybody who has supported us, interacted with us, who wrote guest blogs or was part of our incredible journey in any other way. We have built an awesome community, and at the same time developed ourselves. Keep sharing your knowledge, and keep on learning!
And people have been sharing information with others, because over the years more blogs popped up, people started collecting tools and sites, created StartMe pages and more. The community is still growing, and useful and actionable information is constantly shared online.
Michael James – @ginsberg5150:
While it’s sad to see this chapter come to an end, I’m choosing to see it as a new beginning. I know that the values and mission of OSINT Curious will live on, as the torch is passed to the next generation of people who will continue to build and educate around the importance of OSINT.
We hope that we made an impact by sharing our own knowledge, connecting with our community, and by giving others a platform to collaborate and share their own stories. One of our goals, which turned into our motto, was to make people aware that being curious is a powerful tool in your arsenal. Curiosity will be rewarded, and it is a driving force in this line of work.
Nico Dekens – @dutch_osintguy:
Let’s make one agreement for whoever is reading this. Let us make the #OSINTcurious hashtag a standard when you find something interesting. Keep sharing your knowledge with the hashtag #OSINTcurious to help make this world a better and safer place with the power of Open-Source Intelligence.
This last blog post can only be closed off by the person who brought and held us all together. Not just because of a domain name, but because he shared his vision and ideas with us. He has shared his passion for open source intelligence and investigative techniques for years, and without him The OSINT Curious Project would not exist.
Micah Hoffman – @WebBreacher:
I have so many great memories from The OSINT Curious Project it truly is hard to pick one or two to share. I’ve enjoyed working alongside amazing OSINT Curious members these past years and talking/sharing with our incredible OSINT community. Yes, OSINT Curious was about the “OSINT” but, looking back, I think it was more about the people. Giving people a trusted place to get great public OSINT tools and insights, helping people learn OSINT and support each other, and just having fun while doing it all.
I remember the marathon GeoGuessr live stream Sector and I did and how, after 3+ hours of playing the game, I accidentally chose the wrong country and lost the game for us.
I remember starting our group and being so excited to bring people together and expand my OSINT skills with really talented viewers from across the globe.
And I remember many of our wonderful readers and viewers sending comments, emails, DMs, and coming up to me at conferences and saying “thank you” for OSINT Curious.
I’m truly thankful for OSINT Curious and will have a hole in my life once the entity is gone. But we all know that being OSINT curious never required an official non-profit. It just required talented, curious, people like you and I.
So, yes… The OSINT Curious Project is ending… But I hope we always remain: