It might sound like something from a sci-fi movie or a fantasy novel, but the so-called ‘Dark Web’ is a genuine threat to business.
Known as the internet’s black market, the Dark Web is a place where people can anonymously engage in all kinds of illicit – and even illegal – activities.
It’s the term used to describe the portion of the internet that exists on an encrypted network and cannot be accessed without specialist software. It is often used for criminal activity, such as data harvesting, selling stolen passwords or distributing harmful content and malicious software, but it can also be used for legitimate reasons. For example, journalists often use the Dark Web to communicate with whistle-blowers and dissidents living under oppressive regimes. And businesses use it to exchange sensitive information like price lists or sales projections with competitors.
However, the dangers of the Dark Web present a significant threat to businesses, with malware, phishing scams and more. It’s a place where hackers and cyber criminals can hide their identities, making it hard to track them.
This article aims to make you aware of the security risks the Dark Web poses and how to keep your business, users, networks and data safe by using best practices for cyber security.
What is the Dark Web?
The Dark Web is a ‘hidden internet’ used for many different purposes, from seemingly harmless things like shopping or academic research to cyber crime and other illegal activities.
It’s contained within a sub-layer of the internet hidden from conventional search engines.
Google, Bing, Yahoo and the other search engines search only 0.4% of the indexed or ‘surface’ internet.
The other 99.6% of the web – known as the ‘Deep Web’ – consists of databases, private academic and government networks; and the Dark Web, estimated to be 500 times larger than the surface web and growing.
The Dark Web and the Deep Web are often confused, but they are not the same thing. The Deep Web refers to the parts of the internet that aren’t indexed. The Dark Web is a subset of the Deep Web that contains content linked to a host of criminal activities, such as drug trafficking, weapon sale, human trafficking and more.
Hackers often use the Dark Web to sell or trade stolen sensitive data, including login credentials, user accounts and financial information. They also use it to hide their identities when they commit crimes like credit card fraud or identity theft.
It’s estimated that more than 50% of Dark Web sites are used for illegal activities. Some 15 billion stolen login pairs (i.e. usernames and passwords) have been detected circulating on this part of the internet, while 60% of the information available on the Dark Web could negatively impact most businesses’ security and financials.
How to protect your business against Dark Web threats
The Dark Web threat is ever-present and evolving. It’s a rich seam of information for cyber criminals. As a business, protecting your users’ login credentials is essential, as hackers can use them to access your critical customer and financial data. Hackers can operate anonymously on the Dark Web, so it’s easy to access stolen data and carry out illegal activities without detection.
The best way to protect your business from the Dark Web is to block it entirely. You can do this by using a firewall or VPNs on all your devices and software.
However, it isn’t as simple as blocking user access to the Dark Web. Educating yourself and your users about the threat and following best practice is also essential.
There are various other ways to protect your business against dark web threats, including:
Running an online security scan and monitoring alerts
Dark Web protection is a critical element of cyber security. Regularly scanning your systems and monitoring alerts will help you identify any vulnerabilities that criminals could exploit, along with signs of hacking or data loss. If you notice anything suspicious, you can take action right away to prevent any damage from being done.
Dark Web monitoring, meanwhile, scans the internet for malicious activity and alerts you whenever your company’s name or website appears on blacklists or in hacker forums. It can also detect data breaches, malware infections, and other cyber threats.
And automated data loss prevention monitors your company’s network for unauthorised access to sensitive data, such as user accounts, customer records or financial information.
Implementing a comprehensive data protection plan
Data breaches can happen to any business, regardless of size or industry. To protect your company’s data, you need to implement a comprehensive data protection plan. This includes securing your systems, encrypting your data, and establishing policies and procedures for data loss prevention.
The potential for data loss is greater than ever before, so your data protection plan should include measures to protect your data from being accessed or stolen by hackers on the Dark Web, alongside measures to protect it from being lost or corrupted.
One of the most important aspects of a data protection plan is secure data storage. You need to ensure that your files are stored in a secure location and that only authorised personnel can access them. You should also use encryption technology to protect your data from being accessed by unauthorised individuals.
Creating an incident response plan
Every business should have an incident response plan in place, which will help you quickly and effectively respond to a Dark Web-related cyber incident. The first step in creating a response plan is identifying potential threats and vulnerabilities. The next step is to develop a process for responding to incidents, including identifying who will be responsible and what steps they will take.
You should also ask yourself what are the most common types of attacks, what sensitive data do you hold that could be compromised, and which systems are most vulnerable?
Once you better understand your risks, you can start developing policies and procedures for responding to an incident. Your plan should include steps for detecting and responding to an attack, communicating with stakeholders, and restoring operations.
It’s also essential to practice your response plan regularly so that everyone who needs to know what to do in the event of a breach is prepared.
Why work with a cybersecurity specialist?
If you are concerned about the security of your company’s data, a cyber security specialist will be able to advise on how to best protect your business.
Larger businesses may have dedicated IT staff responsible for monitoring and securing the company’s networks and data, but smaller businesses may not have the resources to do this themselves. This is where working with a strategic technology partner, like Quintech, can help.
Our 24/7 Dark Web monitoring solution provides critical alerts should your business domain or employee credentials be discovered on the Dark Web.
The earlier you know about these breaches making your network and data vulnerable to hackers, the faster you can act, by resetting passwords or identifying security gaps and resolving them.
We leverage the power of advanced technology intelligence and human analysts to proactively search for and analyse compromises and exposed logins that can make your business a hot target for cyber criminals.
Our team of experts is here to help. We’ll work with you to assess your cyber security needs and identify the best ways to solve them. We’ll also review your current IT security provision to see how it can be improved.
To find out more about the Dark Web threat and how you can protect your business, download our free factsheet. And for more information about how Quintech can help make your business more cyber secure, get in touch today for a free consultation.