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Maltego and the science of 'open-source' snooping

Maltego, a new "open-source intelligence" tool, makes data mining a poor person's chore using open data sources.

Data mining used to be an expensive, somewhat esoteric affair. But as Forbes highlights in a recent article on Maltego, a new "open-source intelligence" tool, new technology "lets just about anybody do the kind of data mining that in the past only fraud investors, government specialists, and hackers typically could do."

Should we be worried?

Not really. Maltego doesn't snoop into closed data repositories, but instead mines publicly available data and helps to make inferences and connections between the disparate data sets. Here are two examples:

Worried about information leaks your company? Input lists of employees from your rival companies, and Maltego can graphically depict how they might be related to your employees. It can also provide likely e-mail address, phone numbers, and personal Web sites--and then use this information to add a new layers to the investigation. The magic behind Maltego is that it parses information from all kinds of sources using three simple principles...

Curious what's being written about your company on blogs? Try the transform, and parse out all the most common related tags and keywords. Or try the transform, which queries a database billed as "the world's leading people search engine." Search yourself or your neighbors; Maltego's approach is agnostic.

The product isn't open source in any way: that's just a clever marketing moniker. It's only "open source" in the sense that it pulls from open data sources and remixes them in interesting ways.

You can download the limited community version (free) from the Maltego Web site. Maltego works on Linux or Windows, but not the Mac. If you want to upgrade to the professional version, it's only $430 for first year and $320 per year thereafter.

Maltego in action: Connecting Zimbabwe on blogs, links to those blogs, tags on secondary blogs, and e-mail addresses. Maltego