Fudge Sunday - Max Headroom, OSINT, and Today's Tom Sawyer

by Jay Cuthrell
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Start the week more informedThis week we take a look at Max Headroom, Open-Source INTelligence (OSINT), and today’s Tom Sawyer.

Sting - Russians (1985)Sting - Russians (1985)

Getting Informed


One regular aspect of writing my newsletter is calling back to a prior issue. For example, astute readers of Fudge Sunday may have noted a reference to Twitter lists in issue #37.




A reflection from M.G. Siegler on the prior original draw of Twitter and the modern use case – Twitter Lists of OSINT – provided the inspiration for the current issue of Fudge Sunday.



Let’s dig in…

Open-source intelligence (OSINT)

First, OSINT discussion in this issue will be a fusion of the older terminology more than the newer terminology. Also, as someone that had science projects assigned during grade school for creating bomb shelters, air circulation systems, and effective food rationing plans – – – it feels as though the 1980s nostalgia and fears are repeating like history does.

While the origins of OSINT can be tracked back centuries, here in the USA the timer seems to start in the 1940s. For more interesting reading, there are former intelligence offices that now opine online.

For example, we’ll get into the reasons why this chart mattered a lot more for many in the last few weeks for real people providing Human intelligence (HUMINT) that are trying to exfiltrate stories from the field in horrific conditions.

Operations security (OPSEC) in OSINT can be the difference between life and death.Operations security (OPSEC) in OSINT can be the difference between life and death.

2019: Max Headroom moments

In a prior life for this newsletter, I looked at the TV series Max Headroom as an example of dystopian science fiction that has arrived in our daily lives as reality. Lately, I can’t help but reflect on the human costs of OSINT, HUMINT, and the highest stakes imaginable for Operations security (OPSEC).



2021: You can’t stop the signal (for long) 📡🛰

Last year year in my newsletter, I created a five part series which included a discussion of emerging low earth orbit (LEO) satellite Internet systems like Starlink. Indeed, the spy thriller trope of portable anywhere on the planet communication systems has moved to people in HUMINT involved in OSINT.



Now, if you had told me that the following year I would witness a billionaire not just tweeting support but also enabling LEO satellite Internet systems to help a peaceful nation fighting against a hostile adversary, I would probably have said it sounded like a movie plot line. But, here we are.

Elon Musk


@FedorovMykhailo Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route.

5:33 PM - 26 Feb 2022

Mykhailo Fedorov


Starlink — here. Thanks, @elonmusk https://t.co/dZbaYqWYCf

3:19 PM - 28 Feb 2022

Of course, there are always inherent OpSec tradeoffs in communications which can give away position.

Elon Musk


Important warning: Starlink is the only non-Russian communications system still working in some parts of Ukraine, so probability of being targeted is high. Please use with caution.

2:49 PM - 3 Mar 2022

There are also recent examples of how Imagery Intelligence (IMINT), Financial intelligence (FININT), and Human intelligence (HUMINT) combines with Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) to create innovative OSINT based upon earlier work that tracked the jet of the same billionaire is being used to track very visible assets in the form of jets and yachts of Russian Oligarchs.

Elon Musk’s Jet


Landed in Van Nuys, California, US. Apx. flt. time 2 Hours : 44 Mins. https://t.co/nqRrD34TGI

8:58 AM - 1 Mar 2022

Russian Oligarch Jets


The latest list is below. Trying to stay the most accurate, red removed green added. https://t.co/WjZV2J9Tib

1:24 PM - 2 Mar 2022

Russian Yachts


Keeping watch on these Russian’s Yacht’s https://t.co/BaZQeNyyKB

8:14 PM - 5 Mar 2022

In conclusion, the interesting thing about OSINT now in 2022 there is an ever increasing democratized access to network connectivity, enriched data sources, innovative data analysis tools, and ever more ubiquitous on-demand computing capabilities. As such, our modern day Max Headroom moment has now pushed past science fiction.

No, his mind is not for rent. To any god or government. Always hopeful, yet discontent. He knows changes aren’t permanent – But change is.

Source: Peart and Dubois

Rush - Tom SawyerRush - Tom Sawyer


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