The challenge facing us today is twofold: not only is the digital footprint of the organizations we want to protect expanding and becoming more complex, but at the same time, it is harder to hire the right talent to work with us. Our organizations are using social media, file lockers, cloud SaaS applications, mobile devices, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and more. The question becomes now: how do we do more with less?

I also talked on a webinar around this topic with CISO at Woodforest National Bank, Marc Crudgington. You can watch the recording here.


Force multipliers: Open Source

Open Source software and Open Source INTelligence (OSINT) are powerful concepts in their own right, when we bring them together, we can really create some magic. There are many fantastic open source tools freely available which we can use to gather OSINT about our own organizations. We can take an “attacker’s eye view” of ourselves and use this to explore our exposure and develop effective mitigations.

Some of our favorite tools are:

There are also bigger frameworks that promise more features and capabilities such as:

To provide fuel for these engines, there are many free data sets that can be used for investigating your own organization:

  • SHODAN ( – the search engine for Internet-connected devices, essential for discovering what is connected to the public Internet. There is a limited, free version of this service
  • Hunter ( – a useful search engine for discovering which email addresses are known as attributed to a particular organization. There is a limited, free version of this service
  • Certificate Transparency ( – this service allows you to search through issued SSL/TLS certificates to see which ones have been issued for a particular organization
  • Project Sonar ( – Rapid7 collect a large amount of data about devices connected to the Internet and some of these collections are available for free

You can also roll your own custom tools to take advantage of these data sets by writing scripts in Python, Go or your own favourite language. This allows you the flexibility to get access to exactly the information you need to protect your own organization.


Attack Surface Reduction

So what can you use these tools for? One of the most useful things is to identify your own organization’s attack surface. For example, in terms of technology you can:

  • Identify online assets which should not be publicly accessible
  • Identify vulnerable services or software
  • Identify misconfigurations

You can also use, for example, Google dorking to detect if sensitive corporate information leaked outside of the organization. Through OSINT collection you can see if employees oversharing on social media or identify corporate information which should not be online.


Online Brand Security

An organization’s brand is a critical asset online, in order to protect it you can use tools like dnstwist to detect if attackers are generating domains similar to an organization’s own to target employees and customers. You may also want to investigate off-market app stores, that is, not run by the manufacturer, for mobile devices to see if there are apps present which impersonate your own organization’s apps for malicious purposes. Investigating social media sites also allows you to see if there are spoofed profiles attempting to impersonate, for example, customer care accounts which normally assist users who are have difficulties with a product or service. These impersonation accounts attempt to make unwitting users give up personal information or credentials or even install malware.


At Digital Shadows, this is one area we specialize in. And you can get started without paying a dime. Try SearchLight for free here.



Whilst the Cyber talent gap is real and the challenges of defending organizations is growing, help is at hand. By harnessing the power of open source: both open source software and Open Source INTelligence (OSINT), we can gain insight into the attack surface of our own organizations by thinking like an attacker and viewing ourselves through the attacker’s eyes. This allows us to develop robust and resilient defenses which are informed by the real threats that we face.

If you’d like to hear more, I also spoke on a webinar on this topic with CISO at Woodforest National Bank, Marc Crudgington. You can watch the recording here.

Finally, if you are interested in seeing what our alerts look like, you can try SearchLight for free for 7 days here.


Interested in more practitioner advice? Check out our Practical Guide to Reducing Digital Risk below. 
A Practical Guide to Reducing Digital Risk