The United States and the West (especially the US-led NATO) believe that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine last year reflected the characteristics of modern “hybrid warfare”. Hybrid warfare covers the entire “Competition Space”, including political subversion, economic, information and diplomatic means, and the use of military power has exceeded the upper limit of the “grey zone” concept. Information warfare is the “war behind” hybrid warfare, so the Internet, which carries data information, has become the dominant platform for promoting hybrid warfare. The Russia-Ukraine conflict has therefore become the latest large-scale application scenario of open source intelligence in the Internet intelligence era, which has had a huge impact on great power competition, national security and other fields.

Some media said that the Russia-Ukraine conflict opened up a scene where netizens around the world participated in the war process. The introduction of smartphones and social media into the war zone marked a good era of open source intelligence collection for analysts. While every armed conflict currently has an “internet front” and an information geopolitical dimension – or “infosphere” – the war continues to be fought by other means. This front is also the intelligence site for gathering data, analyzing information, and manipulating adversaries. This is a huge change.

The New York Times reported that during the Russia-Ukraine conflict, U.S. intelligence agencies used a variety of information sources, including military and commercial satellites, to track the actions of the Russian military. For example, as Russia builds up heavy troops on the Ukrainian border, US military intelligence analysts use massive satellite images to find and count the number of vehicles, missiles and supply trucks every day to assess the possibility of actual invasion. In order to reduce the workload of analysts, the US military also sought assistance from Orbital Insight, a company that specializes in analyzing satellite images with AI algorithms. Orbital Insight has a defense background. In 2016, it received investment from “In-Q-Tel”, an investment company affiliated with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and has further developed and grown. Orbital Insight’s algorithm helps the US military analyze the mobilization and transportation of numerous mission factories, barracks, supply depots, roads, railways and ports in Russia’s rear to observe the creation of Russian logistics supply lines.

On the eve of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, commercial satellite images and Russian military videos on Douyin verified the Western view that Russia was preparing for an invasion. At 3:15 a.m. on February 24, Jeffrey Lewis of Middlebury College in California, USA, used road traffic intelligence from Google Maps to discover a very telling traffic jam on the Russian border road. “There are people marching,” he tweeted. Less than three hours later, Putin declared war.

In December last year, a Russian army unit was stationed at a country club in the village of Nesagi in Kherson province. A Russian soldier posted photos of his troops online, with precise latitude and longitude coordinates. As a result, Ukrainian missiles fell from the sky. Later, the fighter posted again with a video showing the extent of the damage. Rob Lee of King’s College London said this was equivalent to a direct on-site damage assessment for Ukraine.

“Many Russian soldiers see posting on social media as part of the war experience,” said Tom Bullock, an intelligence analyst at Atreides Intelligence, who followed a man who was deployed to Kherson province online. russian soldier. The soldier was very meticulous in taking photos and uploading photos of every village he passed through, essentially exposing the precise path of the Russian supply lines.

At Stanford University, a team of undergraduate students used video, communication satellites, geolocation and other functions on social media to track, confirm and record the actions of the Russian military, and formed a report to submit to the United Nations. This is just a team of undergrads, but they can do this.

Foreign media reported that the use of open source intelligence to track and target enemy combatants has prompted major changes in the way the military handles operational security. In Ukraine and elsewhere, this actually affected television and photojournalists’ coverage of the war.

In a recent speech, General Jim Hockenhaar, who served as the intelligence department of the British Ministry of Defense until 2022, compared old-school intelligence work to completing a puzzle without a sample picture or incomplete pieces. “And open source intelligence is equivalent to us still not having sample pictures…but we have almost endless puzzle pieces.” He is working on compiling a history of open source intelligence on the Russia-Ukraine war. According to his assessment, if done seriously, it can achieve “maybe “The level of the U.S. intelligence community”, if it succeeds, it will be a great progress in military history.

Facts have shown that in today’s information age, the research and application of open source intelligence not only plays an important role in social security, commercial security and personal security, but is particularly important in ensuring international security and national security.

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