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The Dark Web and Why You Need to Monitor It

Data and mouse

Underneath the internet you use every day lurks a network of sites that you won’t find using Google. It is home to the world’s largest black market, where everything from human organs, illegal drugs, guns, and stolen credit card information is sold to the highest bidder.

Known as the darknet or the dark web, this network of approximately 100,000 sites has been linked to fraudulent schemes, point-of-sale (POS) attacks, and the notorious 2013 Target data breach.

While you may have heard about the dark web in the news, you probably haven’t considered how this network of nefarious sites could impact your business. But the truth is, the dark web is a threat to every business, large or small.

That’s why it’s so important to include dark web monitoring in your overall network security strategy.

What is the Dark Web?

The dark web is a network of websites that you can only access with a special browser designed to make a user’s activity completely anonymous. Because of this anonymity, it has become a marketplace for criminals to sell credit card data, hacked login and subscription credentials, and software that helps you access the data in other people’s computers.

Think of it as an Ebay for cyber criminals.

Myths & Misunderstandings about the Dark Web

It Is Difficult to Access the Dark Web

While the need for special software and a bit of extra knowledge are required to gain access to dark web sites, it’s not really difficult to access. In fact, advances in encryption technology for the security-conscious have made tools to access the Dark Web easier to use and more commonplace than ever.

The Dark Web Doesn’t Affect My Business

One of the biggest mistakes many businesses make is believing that the dark web doesn’t apply to their business or isn’t a threat to their business. Whether you’re a simple one-man shop or manage a network for hundreds of employees, your customer information, proprietary secrets, or banking information could end up for sale on the dark web.

How can this happen?

Network Security Incidents

No network is bullet-proof. Even if you follow all of the recommended guidelines for network security, your network can still be hacked. When that happens, the data retrieved by the hacker will likely end up for sale on the dark web.

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal in 2017, cybercriminals targeted third-party sellers on, using password credentials that had been previously hacked and sold on the dark web.

Fraudsters used the stolen account information to access third-party seller accounts, list fake merchandise for sale, and change the bank account information of the seller to route the funds to their own bank accounts. This simple hack resulted in tens of thousands of dollars of losses to countless sellers, many of them small business owners.

The Inside Job

It’s easier than ever for enterprising employees to share sensitive corporate data, software code, or even access into your network on the dark web. The anonymous nature of the dark web, coupled with the potential for a big pay day, can make the temptation irresistible. This is especially true when employees are disengaged from their jobs or feel they’ve been treated poorly.

Disgruntled Ex-Employees

While employees on the inside can cause a lot of problems, an ex-employee with a score to settle is potentially even more dangerous. That’s because it’s no longer necessary to have advanced technical skills to carry out a cyberattack. The ex-employee can simply hire a hacker or obtain malicious code on the dark web, sometimes for very little money.

The most important thing to take away from this article is … It’s not a question of if your vital business data will end up on the Dark Web, it’s a matter of when. Because your computers are compromised in many different ways in today’s world. And there is an entire marketplace for buying and selling information stolen from compromised computers creating more and more demand for stolen data.

How to Protect Your Business

The first step to protecting your business from threats created by the dark web is to arm yourself with the right tools and information. While you won’t be able to prevent every security incident, there are things you can do to minimize the potential damage.

Prepare for Security Incidents

No matter how meticulous your security policies, intrusions will inevitably occur. Rather than hoping it won’t happen, you need to prepare your business to detect problems quickly. This will keep you ahead of the problem and limit your exposure.

Dark Web Monitoring

Routinely scanning the Dark Web for your company’s sensitive data is the first step towards protection. These scans search hundreds of thousands of dark web sites to see if any of your data has been posted, and if so, where.

One very important word of caution… Be sure to work with technology professionals who specialize in dark web monitoring. Never try to monitor the dark web on your own, which could open up your network to other security issues.

Make a Plan to Respond

Establish a concrete plan that will guide your response when sensitive information is discovered on the dark web. This plan should include how you will inform customers about the incident. You should also assess any legal issues or stakeholders that could be affected. Having a plan in place will help you contain the damage and move on much more quickly.

The dark web is not going away any time soon. Unfortunately, criminals will continue to use the shield of anonymity that the dark web provides to take advantage of businesses who are not prepared. But understanding the threats, monitoring the dark web, preparing and planning for inevitable cyber security events can keep your business one step ahead in the years to come.

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