The Dark Web Is A Big Cyber Security Threat

As the Internet continues to evolve, so do the threats that come with it and the Dark Web is a significant security problem. The Dark Web has a subset of deep websites that cannot be accessed using a regular Internet browser, requiring encryption or specialty software like TOR. 

Criminals roam this part of the Dark Web in search of illegal drugs, personal information and the newest ransomware software.

Cyber criminals share such sites with each other and can limit or prevent unknown persons reaching their site accidentally using a conventional web search platform.

Today, the Dark Web presents a significant threat to SMEs as it is often used to buy and sell stolen data which contribute to data breaches and while the Dark Net has some legitimate purposes, it is often used by cyber criminals to organise and execute ransomware and DDoS attacks and to sell information stolen from companies and individuals.

The Dark Web provides a platform for cyber criminals to buy and sell stolen data, allowing them to profit from their crimes. SMBs, regardless of the industry sector, are often targeted by cyber criminals because they often store sensitive information such as customer, financial, and employee records which can be highly profitable for bad actors.

IT and cyber security teams are inundated with internal security alerts that it makes it quite difficult to monitor external threats.

Recently in March, a high-profile US data breach hit national headlines when personally identifiable information connected to hundreds of lawmakers and staff was leaked on the Dark Web. This attack involved the DC Health Link, an online marketplace that administers US health plans for members of Congress and Capitol Hill staff. The FBI had successfully purchased a portion of this data, which included social security numbers and other sensitive information, on the Dark Web. This story exposed one of the most dangerous aspects of the Internet, which is the Dark Web increasing use by cyber criminals.

Why Was The Dark Web Created?

The origins of the Dark Web lies with the US government as a means for sharing sensitive information. The Onion Router and the Dark Web began in the 1990s as US government research funded by the US Naval Research Laboratory, and later by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The goal was an anonymous information exchange across the Internet.

In 2004, The Onion Router code was released under a free license, and in 2006 the not-for-profit TOR Project was created. Dissidents, activists, journalists began to use TOR to communicate while protecting identities. However, criminals also began using it and the Dark Web for illegal activities.

The Dark Web Is Growing More Dangerous

Once upon a time, the Dark Web was full of bad actors primarily focused on stealing banking and financial information. Cyber criminals were there to buy, sell, and trade large data sets belonging to financial institutions. The goal is to steal names, security numbers, and credit card information to hack into people's accounts and deal in identity theft attacks. But as technology has evolved and become more sophisticated, so have the bad actors lurking on the Dark Web and underground forums as well as the tools they use.

The number of inexperienced hackers who are becoming increasingly more destructive in the growing Malware-as-a-Service (MaaS) market. These amateur threat actors are building and operating entire malware infrastructures, selling access to the cybercrime software tools without putting themselves at risk of committing cybercrimes.

Cyber criminals have created an enormous market for malicious software, including "Info Stealer" malware that captures personal information from vulnerable networks and computer systems.

This malware is used to find compromised credentials that can be used to plan large, sophisticated attacks targeting everyone from small and midsize businesses to corporate enterprises and government organisations with thousands of employees.

These attacks are coming from all directions, from state-sponsored campaigns used to overthrow government parties and social movements to large-scale assaults on some of the world's biggest companies and the hackers are not only after personally identifiable information, they want to steal intellectual property and proprietary data. Their goals have become far more nefarious with irreversible consequences that put entire industries at risk.

Meanwhile, as malicious software like "Info Stealer" gains more traction among cybercriminals, the dark web is still full of stories, tactics, and tips for using traditional cybercrime tools like ransomware, Trojan, Spyware, adware, and more.

The  Dark Web Threat To Your Organisation

For cyber security and IT teams, one of the most threatening aspects of the dark web is that you simply don't know what you don't know. No matter how powerful your cyber security technology may be, it is difficult to monitor every dark corner of the Internet.

Also, as a business, your security controls are limited. Your vendors, partners, clients, and even employees could accidentally compromise your entire infrastructure before you even realise there is an issue. For example, in today's world of hybrid and remote working environments, an organisation's security tools are not able to secure devices like laptops, phones and tablets used outside of a business' security boundaries.

With so many disparate systems, employees are unknowingly creating blind spots that offer little to no visibility for the team tasked with safeguarding its organisation's computer systems. Instead of having to "hack" a network, cyber criminals can often walk right into the perimeter with compromised credentials purchased on the dark web.

The unfortunate reality is that many organisations simply do not have the resources to monitor the dark web and underground forums where hackers congregate.

Cyber security technology is a necessary defence, but security teams need an extra layer of protection to monitor threatening environments and detect leaked credentials. Larger organisations with broad IT and security teams often have entire departments devoted to monitoring the Dark Web to identify and track cybersecurity threats before they become serious incidents. But smaller teams that barely have enough manpower to manage incoming security alerts simply do not have the capability to keep an eye on the darkest corners of the Internet.

Use a good Dark Web monitoring service to detect and anticipate cyber security threats to your business. These services infiltrate hubs of cyber criminal activity like illegal marketplaces and forums for cyber criminals. They monitor for stolen data and other information on organisations or employees. They also monitor dump sites like Pastebin, where anonymous people can post information including stolen confidential documents, emails, databases and other sensitive data.

The sheer complexity of the Dark Web means it’s unlikely hacktivist groups will be regulated any time soon. In the meantime, it’s clear that criminal groups are arming themselves with freely-available technologies that are making their job even easier, and their victims’ job all that more difficult.

For protection, your organisation should use regular penetration testing as this keeps organisations up to date on the latest strategies and tactics used by threat actors and the tools they provide on the Dark Web. Threat actors thrive in environments where individuals and organisations remain ignorant, hoping that their fear will overwhelm them into inaction.

Staying vigilant and being proactive about building a strong security portfolio to set up barriers to your data is the best way to keep your information safe in their databases, and off the Dark Web.

Verizon:    PA Consulting  USecure:    Forta/ Core Security:   Univ North Dakota:     Hacker News:    Intsights:

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