I recently completed the "Dark Waters" scenario offered by KASE and wanted to share my thoughts around the scenario and KASE's approach to OSINT training. I've known Rae for several years and when I heard she and Espen had put together a training company I was excited to say the least.
tl;dr It's great! Go check it out:
What even IS a KASE Scenarios?
KASE uses storytelling as the vehicle for real world hands on OSINT training. This is not a traditional way to teach. So what's so different about it?
How Does Traditional Training Work?
Traditional training/teaching of any kind follows a pretty standard formula:
- Teach something
- Create a scenario to test the "something" your students just learned
- Teach something else....
A traditional training methodology can be effective under certain circumstances. It can be a great way to reinforce basic knowledge your students will need to build on over time. However, the Teach -> Test -> Repeat model can create a box around a student's brain. They can become great test takers without becoming great critical thinkers. For example:
You're learning how to code in Python. You've just finished learning about recursion. You're then presented a number of problems on a test. Experience will tell you that you'll probably need to solve this problem with recursion...
In the example above, it's tempting for students to apply the thing they just learned to the problem in front of them because, historically, that's how their education has been. They have no incentive to actually understand the problem in front of them. This might be fine for introductory Python but it's not a great way to teach investigators how to approach real world problems.
How does KASE training work?
KASE uses their Scenarios to set up a narrative framework to catalyze an investigation. To understand why this is so important we can refer back to another coding example:
You're learning Python and you've got the basics down. Variable, strings, conditional logic, loops and file I/O are all rock solid. So now what? You've learned things and passed your tests but you don't know how to go about putting all these things together....
In Python, you would need to find a project that interested you to continue growing your skills. In fact, this is the best way I've found to learn and teach coding. When a student is working within a framework that is interesting/engaging they are more inclined to stick with it and learn the things they need to learn to get them through to the end. KASE accomplishes this through storytelling.
You're placed in the role of an investigator and the story KASE has set up pushes you forward to apply investigative/OSINT techniques to move forward in the story. The challenges they present are realistic and are presented in a quasi-CTF format. The KASE platform asks you a question related to the story and you provide an answer in the provided text box. There is no limit on the amount of attempts and hints are available in the platform. Successfully answering questions moves the story forward and presents you with a new set of challenges.
What OSINT Techniques Does KASE Teach You? None. Lol.
What OSINT Techniques Do You Learn During a KASE Scenario?
A much better question to ask. KASE is a framework that forces you to learn, explore and ask questions. Hints are available in the platform but the student is expected to research things they're not familiar with. If you're presented with a question like "Where was this photo taken?" the expectation would be to start learning about geo-location if you weren't familiar. This is how real world investigations work. Yes, you will likely have a core set of skills but understanding the problem in front of you is much more important than memorizing a procedure.
A few of the techniques, tools and resources I came across during the Dark Waters Scenario:
- Username enumeration via tools like WhatsMyName
- Geo-Location of images posted online
- Digging through public facing websites for key pieces of information
- Extraction and leveraging of EXIF data from images
- Understanding and reading financial documents
- Using Google Earth and other Geo data sources
- Pivoting between different social media platforms
- Basic research skills
Some of these things I had to learn on the fly and KASE supports that. There are no points. Nothing is timed. The goal is to learn and that's why I think they're an amazing platform to try out.
In addition to their web platform, they also host an amazing Discord community for OSINT enthusiasts to learn and share:
Final Thoughts and Overall Impressions?
It's great. I'm looking forward to future scenarios. Money well spent.