What is the Dark Web?
Behind every scary story, there is usually some element of truth. When it comes to the so-called “dark web,” we’re not talking fiction. Cybercriminals have effectively created a digital underworld where they can buy, sell, and trade stolen materials.
The problem doesn’t revolve around whether or not common criminals have a place to conduct their dealings. This issue for entrepreneurs, CEOs, and other industry leaders is not knowing if your business or personal identifying information can be found on the dark web. Because the average internet user cannot access the thousands of hidden sites, you might very well be vulnerable and not even know it. That’s truly a scary thought.
What Business Leaders Need to Know About the Dark Web
In order to understand the dark web, it’s essential to understand the “deep web.” The deep web comprises the largest portion of the internet. These typically secure platforms cannot be identified by leveraging standard search engines. Although it is believed the vast majority of the deep web is legitimate, dark web sites are concealed from plain view in the same fashion. Dark web sites are, essentially, part of the deep web.
According to a report at CSO Online, the number of listings on the dark web that could potentially harm an organization increased by 20 percent between 2016 and 2019. Upwards of 60 percent of items listed could damage your operation in some fashion.
As an example, the FBI, DEA, and Europol, investigated and arrested the ringleader of AlphaBay. The site listed upwards of 350,000 illegal items that included “more than 100,000 listings for stolen IDs, malware, firearms, and counterfeit goods,” according to the report. That platform alone conducted approximately $1 billion in illicit transactions.
To locate and access deep or dark web platforms, you would need encrypted anonymizing proxy networks that include Tor and I2P. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to search for your digital assets without a heightened risk. Dark web sites have hardened defenses and are usually laced with malicious software. Basically, entering the cyber-crime underworld without defensive expertise would put your devices and network in a world of hurt.
Are Your Digital Assets For Sale on the Dark Web?
Smart business leaders usually enlist a third-party cybersecurity specialist to develop robust defenses. If you are a proactive decision-maker, in all likelihood your operation enjoys enterprise-level firewalls, antivirus software, digital transfer encryption, high-level password protections, and zero-trust login credentials. You may have already implemented many others as well. That being said, why would your digital assets be found on the dark web?
Three massive hacks have emerged as the poster children for vulnerability — Equifax, Yahoo, and Marriot. The 2013 Yahoo breach opened the floodgates to 3 billion compromised user accounts. Equifax continues to garner headlines for massive court settlements after its data was stolen. But the Marriot breach could be the most frightening of them all.
Upwards of 500 million guest accounts were leveraged and that breach went undetected for four years, according to the New York Times. If you stayed at any of the hotel chain subsidiaries, your personal data and credit card information may have been stolen. Despite your efforts to secure your business perimeter, any of the following could have been siphoned off another platform you access or used to penetrate your network.
- Employee Login Credentials
- Credit Card Accounts
- Intellectual Property
- Bank Account Information
- Stolen Netflix Subscriptions
- Malware & Exploit Kits
- Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attack Tools
- Cyber-Attack Services
The level of e-commerce conducted by digital thieves on the dark web makes Al Capone’s mafia look like a lemonade stand. Rarely are cybercriminals caught and brought to justice because they hide behind layers of false identities and can operate from remote locations anywhere in the world. Hackers auctioning off your sensitive information represent a clear and present danger.
How to Protect Against Dark Web Threats
It’s critical that people without expertise and training do not attempt to search the dark web on their own. The results could be far more disastrous than someone using your credit card. You could inadvertently open the door to cybercriminals infiltrating your business systems.
One of the best solutions involves working with a cybersecurity professional to conduct regular dark web scans. Third-party firms typically possess the tools, defense systems, and expertise to identify items linked to you or your business. Scans are a type of stealth investigation into the nefarious dealing of the digital underworld.
Using specialized search tools, criminal platforms are scoured for hints. These might include your last name, business, last four digits of a Social Security number, or other clues that hackers have a file on you or your organization. That compromised information can then be fully secured by canceling credit cards, putting holds on bank accounts, or enhancing cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
If you have any concerns that digital assets could have been compromised at any point, have a dark web scan conducted. Only by knowing what’s on the dark web can you do anything about it.