If you have ever heard someone talk about the Dark Web, it can very easily be mistaken for another one of Netflix’s eerie, true crime documentaries. Anonymous users, shady dealings, criminal activities—you can see why it would make for good television.
As an employee of a business, you have most likely already been warned by your IT team or a tech savvy co-worker about the dangers of the Dark Web and the highly illegal practices that take place there.
Unfortunately for your business, this is not television and the majority of “cautionary tales” you hear about the Dark Web are true, and yes, very scary too.
Over the past three years, Dark Web activity has increased by 300%, putting businesses of all sizes at risk. In fact, more than 22 billion businesses records were exposed in 2020 alone.
As cyber crime becomes more widespread, small businesses have more responsibility to be proactive about keeping their company and customer data safe from the reach of cyber criminals.
In this article, we will address...
• The Difference Between the Dark and Deep Web
• The Dangers of the Dark Web
• The Dark Web and Your Business
• Why Dark Web Monitoring is Essential
The Difference Between the Dark and Deep Web
Before discussing how the Dark Web can impact your business, it is important to differentiate between the Dark Web and Deep Web. You have probably heard these terms used interchangeably, but they are very different.
If you are a frequent user of the internet, you most likely spend the majority of your time browsing a handful of popular web pages that end with .com or .org, while utilizing search engines like Google or Bing. This kind of web browsing, openly accessible to the average internet user, takes place on what we call the Open Web.
As vast as the Open Web seems, comprised of millions of websites, databases and servers, it really only makes up about 4% of the entire internet.
The other 90% of the internet exists just beyond our visibility and is known as the Deep Web. The Deep Web hums silently in the background and consists of web pages that cannot be found using traditional search engines. The Deep Web’s content can commonly include medical records, banking accounts, or membership sites, which are hidden behind passwords and security walls.
As for the Dark Web, it is a small portion of the Deep Web. While the exact size of the Dark Web is unknown, it is estimated to consist of 5% of the deep web. The Dark Web is only accessible through the browser Tor, also known as the Onion Router thanks to its multiple layers of security and encryption.
Now that that's clarified, let’s dig deeper into the Dark Web...
The Dangers of the Dark Web
The Dark Web was initially developed by a Navy division to store confidential data, however it later became an open source that made way for anonymous and illegal activity. Truth be told, there are many sites on the Dark Web that are not malicious. Some Dark Web pages have also served as a communication outlet for individuals that wish to remain unidentifiable. The technology of Tor has benefited many including: journalists in countries in which freedom of speech is criminalized, individuals in private chat rooms, and has even opened doors for already popular platforms like Facebook to have an anonymous presence.
However, if you’ve heard of the Dark Web, you know it because of its dark history (pun intended). Tor is successful in legally creating a confidential and untraceable user identity, making it irresistible to cyber criminals. This was made abundantly clear after the Silk Road, the world’s largest online illegal market, was shut down by the FBI.
Since then, the Dark Web has been an infamous platform for selling contraband guns, credit card numbers, drugs, password lists, stolen online credentials, subscription credentials, and everything in-between. Indeed, 57% of all found Dark Web pages have some illegal activity and 2,700 webpages are dedicated to illicit markets according to a 2015 study.
The Dark Web & Your Business
So, what does this mean for your business?
Cyber criminals are actively on the hunt to steal sensitive data from your business. Most of the time, this can be achieved through a vulnerability in your network or by utilizing social engineering tactics like phishing. Now, the Dark Web gives cyber criminals an unfair advantage with access to malicious tools and services that make it easier to hack into your environment.
Over the years, cyber criminals have admitted to purchasing keylogger software, credentials, customer data, intellectual property / trade secrets, and malware or RaaS kits from dark markets. Ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) has become especially dangerous with the rise in cyber criminals groups like GandCrab that specialize in the creation of malicious malware to then sell to other hackers. These tools put your small business in serious jeopardy—especially if your company lacks proper cybersecurity defenses.
The Dark Web also makes identifying a breach even harder these days. For example, ransomware attackers usually leave a daunting note on your monitor, notifying you that your data will be held hostage until the ransom is paid. However, some hackers prefer to take the quieter backdoor out by opting to sell the stolen company data on the Dark Web. This makes for a quick and easy profit. But more importantly, this means there is a possibility that your company may have been breached without your knowledge, and your data is now accessible on the Dark Web to the highest bidder.
If your data is on Dark Web, your business is at risk of:
• Damage to reputation / brand and loss of competitive edge.
• Additional attacks if vulnerability is not found quickly.
• Downtime in operations as you aim to repair damages.
• High costs due to legal fees, repair to network, and PR.
Whether alone or paired together, these Dark Web threats are detrimental to your business. Fortunately, there is a way to track your exposure through Dark Web monitoring.
Why Dark Web Monitoring is Essential
Since the Dark Web is cluttered with encryptions and security measures, it makes the user experience painstakingly slow to navigate. Searching manually for your own information on the Dark Web would not only be an incredible chore, but close to impossible to accomplish. According to IBM, on average it takes businesses 197 days (about 6 and a half months) to identify a breach and 69 days to contain it. Fortunately, with the help of powerful Dark Web monitoring technologies available today, you can have peace of mind that your business’s data is not being sold on the Dark Web.
Helpful features that are usually included with Dark Web monitoring services include:
24/7 Dark Web Monitoring
Services monitors for compromised or stolen employee and customer data throughout:
• Hidden Chat Rooms
• Black Market Sites
• Private Websites
• Social Media Platforms
• Peer-to-Peer Networks
• Internet Relay Chat Channels
• 640,000+ botnets
Real-time search capabilities to identify, analyze and proactively monitor for your company's compromised or stolen employee and customer data.
Identify and Credit Management Programs
In the case that any of your company or client data is found, identity and credit management programs will be deployed to protect the employees and customers you serve.
Free Dark Web Scan
Find out if your company's digital credentials are for sale on the Dark Web before they are sold to the highest bidder!
Sign up for our complimentary Dark Web Scan + Report, where we will scan more than 600,000 sites on the Dark Web in real time to let you know if any of your company’s credentials have been compromised.
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