What is the dark web and how does it threaten your business?

September 9, 2020
cyber security

You might have heard about the deep web and the dark web, but you might also have no understanding or concept of what’s contained or what’s readily available on the deep web. The dark web is not difficult to reach. It is not actually dark. And you already possess the skills used to navigate it, to use it, and to potentially become a victim of it.

You don’t have to be a technology expert to know that there are many bad things on the internet. From every form of malware to malicious hackers to advanced persistent threat groups, the internet is an information superhighway that is rife with technological potholes and other hazards. The regular—or surface—internet has directions, billboards, road signage, and roadside help available for you along the way. Realize that just because it’s available on the publicly accessible internet that it’s safe, savory, and legal. It isn’t. There are plenty of sites loaded with malware, redirects, and scams designed solely to extract money from and inflict damage upon unsuspecting visitors.

What is the Dark Web?

To define the dark web, you first need a definition of the so-called “deep web” and what you know as the internet or “surface web.” The surface web is where you search Google, connect to Facebook and do some legitimate online shopping. The deep web is composed of web sites that are not indexed by standard bots and crawlers such as Google. For example, medical sites to which you connect to examine your test results are part of the deep web. Most of the deep web has no malicious or nefarious content on it. These are sites that need to remain private for medical, law enforcement, or other reasons.

The dark web is actually a part of the deep web. Much of it is, as you would expect from the name, nefarious and malicious. These sites are havens for illegal activity such as selling drugs without a doctor’s order or prescription, selling illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin, selling drug manufacturing materials, selling guns or bomb-making materials, trading illegal types of pornography, human trafficking, selling stolen credit card numbers, selling all types of stolen intellectual property, selling illegal services such as hacking into accounts, and much more. The web sites look like normal web sites and some even have elaborate e-commerce capabilities.

The currency of choice for these illegal activities is bitcoin. Bitcoin is used as currency on the deep web because both the buyer and the seller can remain anonymous. Buyer beware because while these transactions preserve your anonymity, there’s no guarantee that you’ll receive whatever you’ve purchased. There are many scams available in these dark parts of the internet, so proceed with caution. To keep customers coming back for more, some of the more successful sites have integrated Bitcoin “escrow” into their e-commerce business. Escrow means that your bitcoin is held in mid-transaction and not released until your goods have been delivered. And no one knows how many of these transactions go bad for either the seller or the buyer because there’s no reporting mechanism, watchdog groups, or Better Business Bureau with which to lodge a formal complaint.

Why Does the Dark Web Matter?

The dark web should matter to you; not because you necessarily want to traverse it to take part in any illegal activities, but rather to gain enough knowledge of it to be aware of the dangers and to protect yourself from them.

Accessing the dark or deep web is as simple as downloading and installing the Tor (The Onion Router) browser. The Tor browser is a method of connecting to sites with true anonymity—meaning that there’s no historical record saved on the user’s hard disk. Further, the Tor browser uses its own connection “circuit” that preserves your anonymity by masking your true location and system’s IP address.

Your employees could be on the dark web

The Tor browser is easy to install and comes with instructions on how to begin browsing the dark web’s hidden sites, which have a .onion domain address rather than .com, .net, or .us. The ease of download, installation, and use make the dark web a few clicks away for any of your family members or your employees. The Tor browser is the only method one can use to browse these “hidden” sites and it’s almost impossible to detect because the browser masquerades itself as Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; rv:68.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/68.0. This somewhat cryptic browser identity looks like the Firefox browser on a Windows 10 system, so Tor’s use can go virtually undetected and unfiltered on a corporate network.

This information matters to business owners who want to prevent their employees from conducting illegal activities on the corporate network. Regular system inventories that include software scans and physical spot checks can uncover clandestine activity that might otherwise go undetected.

How do Dark Web Threats Impact Business?

The greatest threat to business from the dark web is the posting and sale of stolen corporate data. This data covers everything from financial records, personnel records, customer data, credit card information, intellectual property, and other personal and proprietary data. Sometimes perpetrators make the data available free of charge, while others may sell the information to the highest bidder.

Think about the costs to your business should your systems suffer a hack or advanced persistent threat. According to the latest IBM research on security, data breaches can cost businesses an average of $3.92 million. More than destroying customer loyalty, your employees and customers might have their personal and financial or medical data exposed. And worse than the compromise itself would be the sale of this information to multiple anonymous parties around the world.

How to Protect Your Business from Threats

For many companies, the data is the business. And if that data is stolen or is compromised, the business and its customers may suffer irreparable damage. There are several technologies and best practices that can help protect your business from dark web threats.

 

  • End-to-end data encryption – protects data in use, at rest, and in-flight.
  • Virtual Private Network (VPN) – encrypts data between your remote and mobile users and the data source.
  • Two-factor authentication (2FA) – Much better than usernames and passwords, 2FA ensures the identity of the person being authenticated.
  • Education – There’s no substitute for training against phishing, carelessness, and social engineering.
  • Internal auditing controls- Monitor who on your network accesses sensitive data.
  • 24x7x365 monitoring and alerting.

 

While these precautions can prevent successful external attacks, they cannot prevent threat from insiders. According to the Verizon 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report, 30% of all breaches are from insiders.

Why Colocation and Data Centers Help Protect Your Business

Attackers understand that your company is most vulnerable when no one is at work watching the business. You need 24x7x365 data and traffic monitoring and alerting with a colocation/hosting service that stays awake and watches what’s going on all the time. According to the Verizon report, breaches may take weeks or months to discover and by then it’s too late to do anything but attempt damage control and remediation. The stolen data is likely already in the hands of multiple buyers or exposed to thousands of criminal eyes.

Colocation and hosting services provide you with the eyes on data that you need to prevent such lengthy discovery times. Colocation companies have the personnel and automation in place to scrape logs to search for an alert on suspicious activity.

Contact Us today to find out how ColoCrossing can help your business to stay safe and secure.

 


Alex Potapov
Alex Potapov