Data Security in Open Source Investigations: Protecting Your Findings

4 min readAug 28, 2023


When conducting open source investigations or open source intelligence (OSINT), data is vital for gaining insights and making informed decisions.

As investigators navigate through numerous publicly accessible information sources, it is crucial to keep the data they gather, analyze, and store, secure.

This blog will explore the significance of data security in Open Source research, the potential risks it may encounter, and the most effective methods for ensuring it.

In the realm of open source research, data security holds an unparalleled level of significance, especially when delving into sensitive topics like illicit financial flows, war crimes, or human rights violations.

The gravity of the subject matter necessitates stringent measures to safeguard the integrity of the investigation and protect the individuals involved.

The implications of a data breach in such scenarios can be far-reaching and devastating. Imagine the consequences if the investigation methods, sources, or even the identities of victims and witnesses were exposed.

The potential harm that could be inflicted upon them is immeasurable.

Risks to Data Security

Data security threats are manifold and can stem from both internal and external sources.

One of the most common risks is unauthorized access. For instance, an unsecured database could be accessed by malicious actors, leading to the leakage of sensitive information.

Another risk is data corruption, where the data is unintentionally modified or deleted, either due to human error, system glitches, or malware attacks.

An alert sign over a digital screen

Consider the case of a human rights organization conducting an open-source investigation into war crimes.

A breach in their data security could lead to the exposure of their investigation methods, their sources, or worse, the identities of the victims or witnesses they’re protecting.

This is what organizations such as Amnesty International or the Conflict Observatory at Yale have to worry about day in and day out.

AKTEK’s work supporting track II diplomacy in conflict zones in the Middle East is a testament to the seriousness of the issue.

Best Practices to Ensure Data Security

Given these risks, adopting best practices for data security is crucial. There are several best practices to ensure data security in open source investigations:

Ten best practices to ensure data security
  • Use Strong Authentication: Implement robust authentication mechanisms, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA), to ensure authorized access to sensitive data.
  • Encryption: Encrypt data both in transit and at rest using industry-standard encryption algorithms. This prevents unauthorized access to the information, even if it is intercepted or compromised.
  • Regular Updates and Patching: Keep software, operating systems, and applications updated with the latest security patches. This helps address vulnerabilities and protect against known threats.
  • Secure Network Connections: Ensure that network connections used for data transfer and communication are secure. Utilize Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) or other secure protocols to encrypt data during transmission.
  • Data Minimization: Only collect and store the necessary data for the investigation. Minimize the retention of sensitive information to reduce the potential impact of a data breach.
  • Access Control: Implement granular access controls and permissions to limit access to sensitive data. This could involve assigning role-based access controls (RBAC). Regularly review and update access privileges based on the principle of least privilege.
  • Employee Training and Awareness: Provide comprehensive training to investigators on data security best practices, including recognizing phishing attempts, secure handling of data, and adherence to internal security policies.
  • Regular Data Backups: Perform regular backups of important data and store them securely in separate locations. This ensures data availability in case of accidental loss, data corruption, or ransomware attacks.
  • Secure Disposal of Data: Properly dispose of data when it is no longer needed, following secure data destruction procedures to prevent unauthorized retrieval.
  • Incident Response Plan: Develop an incident response plan to address and mitigate any security incidents or breaches promptly. This includes procedures for notifying relevant parties, investigating the incident, and implementing remediation measures.

How AKTEK iO Delivers a Secure Data Management Environment

In today’s digital age, there are numerous tools and technologies available to help you beef up your data security.

AKTEK iO, an end-to-end platform for secure collaborative research and investigation, is designed to address the data security needs of open source investigations.

With its no-code approach, it is easily adaptable and customizable, making it a versatile tool for different investigative scenarios.

AKTEK iO offers robust data encryption in transit and at rest, ensuring that sensitive investigation data remains secure.

It also provides sophisticated access control mechanisms, allowing investigation teams to manage who can access what data precisely.

Furthermore, AKTEK iO supports collaborative research without compromising data security.

Teams can share insights and findings securely within the platform, minimizing the risk of data leaks over insecure channels.

Its iterative design allows for continuous adaptation to changing situations, meaning that as the landscape changes, so too can the security measures.

Technologies like AKTEK iO can significantly contribute to establishing a secure data management environment, enabling investigators to focus on their work without the constant worry of data security.


In conclusion, data security has a pivotal role in open source research, particularly when dealing with sensitive subjects.

Implementing best practices like data encryption and choosing security-certified servers and software that follows SOC 2 or ISO27001 is critical, but lead investigators and project directors should never forget that they are only as secure as their weakest link, which is often tied to the organizational culture and your staff’s commitment to security.

Ultimately, in the world of open source research, ensuring data security is not just about protecting information. It is about preserving the sanctity of investigations and prioritizing the safety of all individuals involved.

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