Have you heard of the dark web? For those who haven't, the dark web is shadowy virtual underworld that most people don't fully understand because it exists so far outside of society. It's often painted as an unreachable, unregulated part of the online world where anything goes, and the worst criminals thrive.
The fact is though, that there are a lot of misconceptions about the dark web, and a working knowledge of this illicit space can be hugely beneficial to businesses looking to protect themselves from cybercriminals who frequently steal valuable information and personal data from organisations for profit or extortion.
Understanding the Dark Web
In order to mount a proper defence against those who would use the dark web to extort and damage businesses, we must first be sure we understand exactly what the dark web is.
First and foremost, it must be understood that the dark web is not linked or connected to the public internet that we all use in any way, shape, or form. IT can be easily confused with the deep web, which is also unable to be reached via search engines and the like, but is actually the part of the internet where password protected accounts (such as online banking profiles) exist.
In fact, the dark web is an overlay network, requiring dedicated software in order to access it, and the servers which connect to it are most often hidden behind multiple layers of security to create an anonymity that makes it extremely difficult for law enforcement agencies to track them down.
The dark web itself is also not illegal. It exists as a legitimate space, albeit one that is used to host, buy and sell a lot of content that is against the law. Case in point, malware and ransomware used to attack businesses is frequently purchased on the dark web, most often through cryptocurrencies such as bitcoins, which are easier to hide.
How thieves use the dark web
Almost every illegal and well-organised criminal activity that you can think of thrives thanks to the untraceable nature of the dark web, but what does that mean for businesses?
As well as being a legal blind spot for criminals to formulate and co-ordinate attacks against businesses and other organisations, the dark web is essentially used as a black market where various personal information, log in details, and ransomware can be bought and sold.
Some of the most at-risk data includes:
- Credit card and debit card account numbers
- Online banking passcodes
- Log-in information for Paypal and other payment services
- Medical records
- Passports details
- Phone numbers
- Log-in information for subscription services and online vendors
Some dark web operators will simply take this information via malware and sell it piecemeal to other users for their own exploitation (identity theft, making false purchases etc.). In other cases, ransomware allows the scammer to block businesses and individuals out of their accounts and unable to access sensitive data unless a hefty fee is paid.
The benefits of dark web monitoring
It may seem like bleak picture has been painted; an untraceable, shadowy criminal enterprise that could cheat anyone out of financial and technological security. All of this and more is why it is important for organisations and companies to investigate and invest in dark web monitoring solutions.
Dark web monitoring technology will notify users if data or information relating to their business is found on the dark web. It's an active, not passive, defence, and a good dark web monitor will be able to continuously scan vast amounts of stolen credentials posted to the dark web. From there, it can update a daily list of breaches and send automatic alerts allowing for immediate access.
With the information provided, management teams can get ahead of the issue ASAP, moving to secure both personal and enterprise-level passwords. once your chosen monitoring tool has alerted you to a breach, it is vital that passwords for relevant, flagged, accounts are changed, as well as any other instances of the same password being used. Entirely new passwords should be generated, and used alongside two-factor authentication where available. Financial institutions linked to the theft of bank account details should also be informed immediately.
The dark web can seem like an insidious and impenetrable concept, but dark web monitoring software offers a glimmer of light as the best way to ensure that data is kept secure and safe following cyber attacks.
If you'd like help protecting your company from the dark web then get in touch. APH would love to hear from you.