Dark Web Cyber Security Threats

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Did you know that there is actually a large portion of the internet that is hidden from open view (hidden web)? This dark web is home to all sorts of illegal dark web activities including cybercrime and has been in the spotlight lately due to the number of high-profile cyber security threats.

If your business isn't careful, you could be at risk for cyber attacks from criminals lurking on the dark web. Learn about the threats posed by the dark web and how to protect your business from them.

The Three Types of the World Wide Web

The best way to understand the dark web is by first understanding the types of the world wide web. The entire web or World Wide Web can be broken down into three parts: the surface web (or clearnet/open web), the deep web, and the dark web.

The surface web

The surface web or open web is what you're most familiar with. It's the part of the web that you can access through search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. It's made up of websites that are indexed by search engines and can be easily found.

The deep web

The Deep Web is the part of the web that is beneath the surface web, the parts of the internet that are not indexed by search engines.  It's made up of resources and services that are hidden behind login web pages and require authorization to access. Examples include pay-walled content, government records, medical records, educational portals, SAAS products, etc. The deep web makes up a majority of the internet.

The dark web

The dark web is a part of the internet that can only be accessed using special software, making it anonymous and difficult to trace. The Dark Web is often confused with the Deep Web, but then the deep and dark web are not the same thing. The Dark Web is a small part of the Deep Web, and it's where you'll find things like illegal activity and black markets.

Though tiny compared to the surface web and deep web, the dark web is popular  for all sorts of illegal activity, including child pornography, buying and selling drugs, weapons, and other contraband. Some claim the dark web is a place where people can communicate freely and share information without fear of censorship or retribution. But its inherent anonymity also makes it a breeding ground for criminal activity including sharing stolen information.

Who Created the Dark Web and Why?

The dark web was pioneered in the 1990s as a secure way for the US army to communicate privately. However with the growth of the internet, the dark web quickly became a haven for illegal activities. Transactions on the dark web are typically made using cryptocurrency, which allows buyers and sellers to remain anonymous.

Unfortunately the dark web is now home to a range of illicit activities, including drug trafficking, human trafficking and online piracy.

How to access the dark web?

The dark web is accessed through special browsers.  The most popular browsers for accessing the dark web are the Tor browser and I2P (Invisible Internet Project). They're both free and easy to use, but be warned that they're not as user-friendly as your average browser. You'll also need to be familiar with how to use a dark web browser before you can start browsing dark web sites.

Why Should Businesses Worry about Dark Web Cyber Security Threats?

When most organizations or even individuals think about cybersecurity, they rarely think about the dark web. Unbeknownst to them, the dark web introduces a whole new level of cyber security threats that every organization should be worried about. It provides a safe haven for malicious actors who can operate with relative anonymity. This makes it difficult for government authorities to track them down in a timely manner and bring them to justice.

In addition, the dark web is often used as a platform for buying and selling stolen data. This can include sensitive data such as customer credit card numbers or intellectual property that has been leaked by disgruntled employees. Even if your business never suffers a data breach, there is a risk that your customers' information will end up in the hands of criminals if you don't take steps to protect it.

For all these reasons, it's important to incorporate Dark Web threats into your security posture. You just have to pay attention to dark web security threats because you never know when your organizations gets hit. With hackers and scammers in the dark web constantly looking for new ways to exploit unsuspecting organizations, it's important to stay alert.

Examples of Dark Web Cyber Security Threats

As you can see, the dark web is a haven for cyber security threats. This makes it a particularly dangerous place for businesses and individuals alike. Here are some of the most common cyber  threats posed in the darkness.

1. Malicious software

Malicious software is one of the most common threats on the dark web. This type of software is designed to harm or take control of your organization’s system. The goal is to steal your data, which can be devastating.

Be especially careful if some of your employees use their work devices to access websites on the dark web, as they are a hotbed for cyber security threats including malicious software.

2. Compromising personal data

Malicious hackers in the dark web are notorious for stealing and releasing the personal data of millions of people, including politicians and celebrities. They can release such stolen data through dark web forums or specific hacking forums. This has caused a lot of concern, as the data released includes addresses, phone numbers, and even credit card information.

It's worrying that such sensitive information is being stored in such a dangerous place where it's easily accessible to anyone who knows where to look. This not only hurts businesses but also their customers.

3. Selling bank details

One of the most popular items being traded on the dark web is banking information. Hackers and cyber criminals can make a fortune by stealing banking details such as bank account numbers and credit cards then selling them on the dark web marketplaces (black market).

This type of cyber security threat can be extremely damaging for businesses and individuals, as it can lead to enormous financial loss. In recent years, there has been a surge in dark web scams and data security attacks targeting banking information.

4. Selling source codes

Cybercriminals can purchase stolen source codes through underground markets and use them to create malware and ransomware.

There are cases where hackers have been able to steal millions of dollars by compromising companies' systems and releasing ransomware that would encrypt files until the hackers are paid a ransom.

5. Spoofing templates

Spoofing templates are created with the intention of fooling users into thinking they are interacting with a trusted website or entity when in fact they are not. This can be done by copying the branding of an existing website or entity and replicating it perfectly on a fake site.

Dark Web cyber criminals can use spoofing templates to steal sensitive information such as login credentials, credit card details, and more.

6. Publishing organization databases

One of the most popular ways to exploit an organization is to steal and publish their confidential data. This can include customer information, employee login credentials, or even entire databases.

This is often done by hackers who gain access to this information through vulnerable web applications or leaked login credentials. They then post this information on the dark web where it's easily accessible by anyone.

This can be a huge embarrassment for the organization, as well as a security risk for their customers. It can also lead to costly financial and legal damages.

7. Counterfeit passes

Counterfeit passes to events are increasingly being sold on the dark web. Whether it's a music festival, a sports game, or a theater performance, criminals are finding ways to sell fake tickets on the dark web.

This creates a number of problems for event organizers and attendees. Often, it’s difficult to tell whether or not a ticket is legitimate. Secondly, buying a counterfeit ticket takes money away from the event organizer and can even result in empty seats depending on the intention of the criminals.

Finally, it puts the safety of attendees at risk. If criminals are able to sell fake tickets to an event, they can easily steal people's identities or even worse, rob them at the event itself.

Is the Dark Web Illegal?

The Dark Web is not illegal but its image is tainted because it’s largely associated with illegal activities. So while illegal activities do occur on the Dark Web, it's important to note that not everything on the Dark Web is illegal and not all dark web users are criminals.

In fact, there is a huge part of content on the Dark Web that  is perfectly legal and fine. This includes things like research, academic studies, and even government communications. So, while it's important to be aware of the dangers that exist on the Dark Web, it's also important not to paint it with a broad brush.

How Can Businesses Stay Safe From Dark Web Cyber Threats?

As an organization, you need to be proactive about your cyber security and understand the dangers that come with using the dark web. Deploy the below approaches to protect your business;

  1. Encryption: Make sure all your data is encrypted. This will make it much harder for hackers to access, steal and compromise your sensitive information.
  2. Two-factor authentication: Two-factor authentication will require users to enter a code in addition to their password, making it more difficult for hackers to gain access to accounts even when they already have stolen login credentials.
  3. Regular credit checks: Check your credit reports regularly for any suspicious activity and take quick steps to prevent associated risks. Regular credit checks can also help you identify any employees who may be at risk for identity theft.
  4. Educate employees: Some of your employees might be visiting the dark web for curiosity's sake. This can attract monitoring from law enforcement agencies as governments around the world are constantly monitoring activities on the dark web. So you don't want your business to be a target of government monitoring simply because one of your employees is innocently visiting the dark web. Educate your staff about the dangers and disadvantages of visiting the dark web. They are better off keeping off and if they must then encourage them not to use the organization’s resources. Read our post about benefits of cyber security awareness trainings.
  5. Use cyber security services companies: Reputable cyber security services companies specialize in identifying and addressing potential threats, and they can help you keep implement solid strategies to counter dark web cyber threats.

By taking these simple steps as part of your network security strategy, you can significantly reduce the chances of being victimized by dark web criminals.

Dark Web Security: Conclusion

The dark web provides ample opportunity for malicious actors to find everything they need to launch sophisticated attacks on organizations. From malicious software to stolen business data, it’s a breeding ground for damaging threats. If you are yet to start thinking about deploying vigilant cybersecurity solutions to protect your organization from these dark web dangers, then it’s time to act.

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