What Terrogence calls Virtual Entities, others might call Avatars or Virtual Sock Puppets. What is important to know about them is that they are not bots (short for robots). The distinction is critical to web intelligence success, and is a keystone of Terrogence WEBINT operations.
A Virtual Entity such as Terrogence cultivates online is a viable representation of an actual human intelligence behind it. It is this human intelligence, in our case the collective operational and professional expertise of the Terrogence staff, which gives “life” and lends true credibility to the entity online by crafting and maintaining a believable backstory, browsing habits and operational tradecraft.
A bot, on the other hand, is an automated software application that performs simple, repetitive tasks online. A web crawler, even the most advanced crawler, is nothing more than a fancy bot, however useful (we use them too, in some cases).
We believe the role of a crawler or bot in intelligence production to be largely overstated. What a bot does is collect, filter and sort information, but ultimately it requires a human intelligence to create intelligence from that information (see Big Data vs. Specific Intelligence Derivatives). Furthermore, a bot is limited in the type of information it can collect, especially when it comes to more interesting parts of the deep web, namely non-public social media correspondence and the like.
Our Virtual HUMINT™ methodology is a far more effective and reliable methodology for gleaning intelligence from the most interesting areas of the web.