In IT, the word “metadata” basically refers primarily to the data behind the image, video or software application. Metadata implies data comprising of specific information that includes length, textual makeup, type, description, locational data, and other features or types of data that are used to either build or identify the element. Several types of hidden data are contained in a variety of documents, pictures, and videos which we will refer to as “elements” for the sake of this article. For Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) practitioners, accessing the metadata behind any of these elements can sometimes be a treasure trove of valuable information.
With considerations to the scope and a variety of data types, it is not surprising that understanding metadata is becoming a priority for OSINT practitioners and other open-source research professionals. There are also other features embedded within metadata to protect the element from misuse, which includes the definition, description, limitations, and structure of the data in order to protect information leakage from things such as social media sites.
Types of Metadata
Metadata is further divided into three subcategories:
- Administrative: It enables the usage of enhanced resource management, which displays information relating to when and how the data was made. Administrative metadata are further divided into preservation metadata and intellectual property rights (we will dive deeper into these sub-subcategories in an upcoming article).
- Descriptive: It applies to discovery and identification with additional information like abstract, author, keywords, and title.
- Structural: The structural category indicates how information is combined. For instance, the chapter, page arrangement, order, and more.
The Benefits of Metadata.
Metadata is beneficial for several purposes. A common benefit is data that makes the element discoverable, which comprises of information like resource identification, defining criteria, as geographical information.
Another practical benefit comes with the organization of electronic resources. It is also a critical use which supports the growth of Web-based resources. Characteristically, element links are organized as lists and created into static webpages, with other information hardcoded.
Metadata is also beneficial in facilitating integration and interoperability operations. The use of metadata also details the process in describing resources required to understand humans and machines. This understanding allows for effective interoperability, better data structures, and the interfacing process. This is a key feature to metadata that assists artificial intelligence engines with finding and integrating the element.
Metadata also enables digital identification through standard numbers that offer a unique identity to resources defined by the metadata. Also, another practice is the combination of metadata, which serves as an identification process.
Lastly, metadata provides significant benefits in protecting future approachability. It offers critical concern offered to the fragility of digital data and vulnerability to corruption. For tasks relating to archiving and preservation, metadata can track an object’s lineage, provide physical characteristics description, and more. For an OSINT practitioner, this is important to understand, and being able to find and extract metadata is important for research purposes and for identifying new leads, the source of the element of the larger data set with which the element belongs or is a part of.
Get-Metadata offers a free online tool that permits accessibility to hidden Exif & metadata for a variety of files, including audio, document, e-book, image, video file, and more. The platform can provide all metadata hidden within a file. This incredible resource and others like it can be found on the Cyber Intelligence Dashboard (CID). And, if you would like to learn more about the process of extracting metadata and the methods required to apply it to your research or investigation, feel free to check out the training courses available at The Echo Academy for Open Source Research and Analysis.
Buddy is a military veteran, former intelligence officer, and entrepreneur who teaches dozens of courses on a variety of intelligence-related topics. Buddy currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Echo Analytics Group and is based in Tampa, Florida.