Cybercrimes are becoming more and more sophisticated in the age of rapidly developing technologies. Companies of all sizes have to invest sizable amounts of time and money into cybersecurity. Without proper measures in place, it’s easy to lose data, hurt your reputation, and get stuck with downtime.
While often used for legally allowed activities, the dark web is where cybercriminals can build communities, hire hackers, and sell illegally-obtained data. While browsing the dark web may not create a cybersecurity threat, the sole existence of this place can increase your chances of being attacked.
Let’s take a closer look at what the dark web is all about and why you should beef up your cybersecurity measures.
Surface Web vs. Deep Web vs. Dark Web
It’s essential to understand the basics of the dark web to evaluate the dangers of dark web cybersecurity threats. To do that, you have to grasp the concepts of surface web and deep web.
- Surface Web (also called Open Web or Clear Web) – includes web pages indexed by search engines and available to all internet users. These sites are publically available for use in the USA and other countries.
- Deep Web – web pages that can’t be indexed by any search engine. To find these pages, you would need to type the exact URL in the address bar of a web browser. You will see the website but will not be able to enter it unless you have a password. Research shows that 90% of websites are hidden on the deep web. Deep web sites contain medical records, scientific reports, financial information, legal documents, and other private data. Even government agencies use the deep web for their purposes.
- Dark Web – this is a small subset of the deep web. Dark web websites are only accessible through special browsers, like the TOR browser. This dark web browser doesn’t track the user’s data. Dark sites make up about 6% of the deep web. A lot of criminal activity occurs on the dark web. It includes building cybercriminal communities, creating illegal drug marketplaces, selling sensitive data for identity fraud, and more. To access the dark web, you usually need the website’s exact URL and a password.
While some people use the dark web for legitimate reasons, most of the activities on this layer of the internet are shady at best.
For some businesses, the deep and dark web concept may come as a surprise. However, dark web activity directly affects how you should structure your cybersecurity plans.
Accessing the Dark Web
Dark web users have several ways to access the websites they are after. Besides knowing the exact URL of the site, you may need to:
- Have a password – website owners can change passwords daily or even hourly. To access the dark web, you need to receive updated information regularly.
- Pay money – some dark web sites can come with a price. You can’t gain access unless you pay the entry fee.
- Proof – some criminal communities may ask you for proof that you’ve committed a crime. Otherwise, you can’t enter.
- Recommendations – in some illegal communities, you can’t enter the web pages unless someone from that community vouches for you.
Since dark web sites are password-protected, user access can easily be revoked at any time.
Dark Web Forums and Marketplaces
When it comes to illegal activity, criminals use two standard tools to commit illegal acts on the dark web. They are forums and marketplaces.
- Forums – serve as a place for the criminal community to interact, schedule meetings, exchange information, and much more. Since this communication is protected from search engines and unauthorized access, users can interact freely. Forums can also be used to coordinate dark web commerce activities.
- Marketplaces – dark web e-commerce pages may look just like open websites. However, criminals can sell products like illegal drugs, child pornography, or stolen sensitive information. Marketplaces can also have an accompanying forum where users share tips and discuss sales.
Dark web forums and marketplaces can have a set of rules for using them. Owners design policies for users to follow to avoid chaotic interactions and scams.
Improving CyberSecurity to Avoid Dark Web Threats
Many organizations are working to stop illegal activities on the dark web, but it can be nearly impossible to access these websites. So far, businesses can only improve their cybersecurity services. Here is how.
1. Hire an Experienced IT Team
Cyber security is one of the most crucial tasks handled by your IT department. If your IT team doesn’t have time to take care of it, you may inadvertently create a loophole for criminals to get through.
Beef up your IT team if you don’t want them to use your stolen information to make dark web offers. Some small and midsize businesses don’t have sufficient resources to hire large IT departments. If that’s your case, consider outsourcing. Whatever you do, make sure your IT experts have enough time to deal with cyber security.
2. Train Your Employees
A significant percentage of cyber security attacks happen due to the careless behavior of internal teams. Employees share their logins and passwords, don’t install updates, use public Wi-Fi hotspots, and more.
Take the time to implement mandatory cyber security training in the workplace. Teaching your employees how to create robust passwords and limit access to their computers can go a long way toward preventing cyberattacks.
3. Limit Access
When it comes to sensitive data, hardly all of your employees need access to it. Meanwhile, many business owners give their team members the same access rights. This leads to loopholes, accidental breaches, and intentional information sharing.
You can minimize data leaks to the dark side by rethinking who and when should have access to customer and business data. Your IT team can set up access options for each employee, thus minimizing the number of unintentional loopholes.
4. Keep Tabs on Your Apps
If you are using off-the-shelf software, you need to monitor updates. If anyone can buy an app in a public store, anyone can have sufficient time to find its weak spots. Cybercriminals do this and then share this information on the dark web.
Since software providers know about this possibility, they carefully watch their apps for problems. As soon as they find one, they release an update. Failing to install an update on time can leave you vulnerable to cybercriminals’ actions.
5. Create Backups
Ransomware attacks make up 10% of all cyber security breaches. When an attack happens, you get locked out of your servers and lose access to valuable data, forcing you to pay the ransom and face downtime.
If you have proper backup, your company can resume doing business immediately and avoid paying the ransom. However, backup doesn’t prevent malicious actors from making stolen data public. That’s why preventive measures are still necessary.
Cybercriminals use the dark web to discuss malicious attacks, plan breaches, trade-sensitive information, and much more. While you can do little about stopping their illegal actions, you can prevent them from hurting your company.
You can keep criminals out and maintain safe and productive business operations by improving your cybersecurity measures.