Most business leaders are all too familiar with the constant threat of cyber incidents, such as identity theft and other data breaches. However, the dark web remains something of a mystery. It’s a term most of us have heard, but there are many misconceptions as to what the dark web really is and what it means to businesses and their employees.
What is the dark web?
The dark web is commonly confused with the deep web. While the surface web refers to the sites tracked in the search engines, the deep web refers to the huge amount of content that’s stored on the web but not available to the general public. This part of the web includes all content that’s accessible only through a password-protected account like emails and other web apps.
The dark web is an entirely separate entity, although it still uses the same infrastructure as the regular web. You can’t access dark web websites and services using a conventional browser like Chrome or Edge. Instead, you need a specialized browser, the most popular being TOR. Websites on the dark web have different addresses, ending with the .onion top-level domain, with the first part of the address taking the form of random-looking letters and numbers.
Dark web servers are hidden beneath multiple layers of security, while the network protects users’ anonymity and makes it difficult for law enforcement to track them. This degree of anonymity has some legitimate uses, particularly for web users in oppressive regimes where they want to get around localized filters and other controls.
How criminals use the dark web
Unfortunately, the anonymity of the dark web also makes it a hotbed for criminal activity. Imagine a version of the regular internet that most of us use every day, albeit without any restrictions as to what people can share or sell. As such, the dark web has become infamous for its markets where users can buy anything from illegal substances to stolen intellectual property and credit cards.
Although the world’s law enforcement agencies are fighting a constant battle to regain control over the dark web, new marketplaces tend to pop up as soon as one is closed down. The Silk Road, one of the dark web’s most infamous black markets, for example, was taken down by the FBI, but many more quickly spawned in its place. This makes the network the go-to venue for criminals selling stolen goods and data, as well as anything else that’s illegal.
Most transactions that take place on the dark web are paid in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies because these are almost impossible to track. These digital black markets often mimic many of the same processes and features of legitimate online shops, yet they sell everything, including drugs, malicious software, and confidential data stolen from businesses and individuals. If your business suffers a data breach, chances are that’s where the stolen data will end up.
While the media tends to focus on large-scale data breaches affecting big businesses, smaller organizations are a favorite target since they represent something of a compromise between risk and reward. Many cybercriminals profit by launching smaller attacks against more vulnerable targets, selling the misappropriated data on the dark web without the victims ever noticing.
How dark web monitoring helps mitigate the effects of data breaches
Every organization needs to take a multilayered approach to information security and privacy, regardless of its size or industry. But no matter how much they spend and how prepared they are, there will always be a risk. That’s why it’s critical to prepare for the worst-case scenario by having a clearly documented strategy for mitigating data breaches that do occur. Above all, if there’s an incident, the victim needs to know about it as soon as possible.
Dark-web monitoring services scour various forums, search engines, and illegal marketplaces to detect any stolen information, such as intellectual property and confidential data. While falling victim to a breach in the first place is obviously highly undesirable, having a way to identify it quickly helps victims remediate against such attacks and minimize damage to their reputations.
Xact IT Solutions provides a multilayered approach to cybersecurity that helps businesses protect themselves against threats both outside and from within. Contact us today to schedule a security assessment and protect your data.