“What is the dark web?” That’s a question that 31% of U.S. adults may ask when hearing the term. A 2022 survey revealed only 21% are “very familiar” with the dark web, and 48% are only “somewhat familiar.” The rest have either never heard of the dark web or have heard of it but don’t know what it is, let alone understand the importance of dark web monitoring and its role in cybersecurity.
So now you may wonder, “what does dark web monitoring mean?” Basically, it’s a process of locating and surveying your own data on the dark web. Dark web monitoring traces leaked or stolen data, such as compromised passwords, intellectual property, credentials, and other sensitive data shared and sold among cybercriminals.
In this guide, we’ll explore the dark web and explain the dangers and threats that it poses to your digital identity. We’ll also look at how dark web monitoring can boost your cybersecurity strategy for your business.
What is the dark web?
The dark web is a part of the internet that is inaccessible through traditional search engines or browsers, like Google or Bing. Instead, it requires specialized software, such as the Tor browser, to access it. This hidden part of the internet is often associated with illegal activities and has become a popular marketplace for buying and selling stolen data.
You see, normally, when you go online, you access the Internet through a device with an IP (Internet Protocol) address, which gives you your unique online identity. This identity allows networks to send the right data to the right place—such as ensuring an email arrives at its intended destination—and also tracks and monitors your online activity.
But when you log onto the dark web, there is full anonymity. This anonymity makes the dark web an ideal playground for cybercriminals looking to compromise your data without fear of being caught.
Dangers and threats on the dark web
While the dark web is perceived by some as an outdated platform for criminal activity, that’s not the case. It’s an anonymous online space that can either be appreciated or abused. However, that abuse is one of the main concerns in any cybersecurity strategy. Cyber threats are rising, and the dark web is partly responsible and very involved.
More specifically, we’ve seen an increase in credential-based cyberattacks. For example, just days before this publishing, the popular remote desktop application AnyDesk announced a security breach on February 2. It was quickly revealed by cyber news outlets that the stolen AnyDesk login credentials were already being sold on the dark web.
Malicious actors steal vulnerable information and re-sell it for a profit. You could buy details of a credit card with a balance of up to $5,000 for just $110 in March 2023. Stolen online banking logins with a minimum of $2,000 would only cost you $60 on the dark web.
When accessing the dark web, you do so through a browser like Tor, which is what enables the content on the dark web to be anonymous. It routes web page requests through multiple proxy servers operated by volunteers around the world. This is known as onion routing and renders the user’s IP address untraceable and unidentifiable. It’s called onion because, like the vegetable, the Tor network’s encryption has numerous layers.
Dark web vs deep web: What’s the difference?
The terms “dark web” and “deep web” aren’t the same. The dark web is a small part of the deep web that is intentionally hidden and cannot be accessed through standard search engines. It is often used for illegal activities such as buying and selling stolen information, drugs, weapons, and other illicit goods.
On the other hand, the deep web is anything online that isn’t indexed and, therefore, can’t be accessed by search engines (Google, Bing, etc.). Content on the deep web includes anything that needs sign-in credentials or sits behind a paywall.
Examples of content on the deep web include:
- Your email
- Medical records
- Confidential corporate webpages
- Membership sites
- Fee-based content
If you’re wondering about the Internet you’re more familiar with, it’s referred to as the surface web, also known as the open web or the visible web. This includes any website that a search engine can add to its database, along with blogs, product listings, and social media posts.
What is dark web monitoring?
Dark web monitoring is the process of surveying the dark web for any mentions or activity related to a particular individual or organization. Dark web monitoring involves using specialized tools and techniques to search the dark web for any potential threats or risks to an individual or organization.
These tools can locate stolen or leaked information—like compromised passwords, intellectual property, and breached credentials—being shared and sold among cybercriminals and notify you if you’ve been hacked.
Dark web monitoring tools provide higher-quality detection of threats on the dark web than standard antivirus and antimalware programs or identity theft monitoring tools. The goal of antivirus and antimalware programs is to prevent malicious code from running from the start, but they’re ineffective after information has been stolen. With dark web monitoring tools, you can search for confidential data, including trade secrets, proprietary information, and login credentials.
Features of dark web monitoring
Dark web monitoring has some distinct features and characteristics. Below are the main features you should know.
- Threat intelligence: Dark web monitoring tools decide which sources of threat intelligence are important - knowledge or data that enables the prevention or mitigation of hacking.
- Threat hunting: Dark web monitoring detects emerging threats and protects individuals and businesses from attacks. The service acts as though a cybercriminal has access to the user’s system and investigates to identify unusual activity that indicates malicious behavior.
- Rapid incident response: Dark web monitoring allows the user to quickly detect when cybercriminals have access to their sensitive data instead of going months without knowing that a breach even occurred..
- Security platform integration: The user can integrate the acquired data into other security systems. This enables their security stack to provide more accurate insights.
As we’ve been over, dark web monitoring can be a valuable tool in the fight against cybercrime, and setting up alerts is a key part of that.
Dark web monitoring for business
No matter the size of your business, you can benefit from dark web monitoring by using it to help secure your data and prevent cybercrime, such as credential-based attacks and ransomware, before they occur.
The dark web is evolving, and that means your business needs more than basic cybersecurity protection like endpoint security. Cybercriminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are finding workarounds for security protocols faster than they’re being updated.
A dark web monitor strategy allows your business to be more proactive by actively detecting compromised assets from data breaches. Knowing what data cybercriminals have of yours allows you to stay ahead of attacks that depend on stolen identity data, like ransomware, account takeover, and online fraud.
Benefits of dark web monitoring for business
Dark web monitoring provides several key benefits that are crucial for any business that holds sensitive data. Here are a few of those benefits to keep in mind when considering making dark web monitoring a part of your cybersecurity strategy.
1. Around-the-clock surveillance
Dark web monitoring scans the dark web continuously, making sure your data and content are kept from the hands of cybercriminals.
2. Early detection of data security threats
Your business can fall foul of a data breach without you even knowing it. Dark web monitoring can detect data theft before it commits widespread and costly damage.
3. Customer trust
If you have customers who trust you with their data, that trust could be lost in the event of a data breach. Dark web monitoring lets your customers know you’re committed to protecting their data, further boosting your reputation and customer confidence.
4. Competitive advantage
Monitoring the dark web allows you to remain ahead of your competition by becoming aware of emerging threats before they do. Business partners will also likely trust you if they see that you take cybersecurity more seriously than your competitors.
5. Regulatory compliance
There’s also the matter of cybersecurity compliance. Dark web monitoring can help your business comply with data privacy rules and regulations that relate to personal data. This helps you avoid significant penalties and fines that could otherwise hinder your business operations.
Final thoughts on dark web monitoring
It’s important for everyone to safeguard their data from cyber criminals, but especially business owners who have a lot of risk. By adding dark web monitoring to your existing cybersecurity strategy, you’ll have a more robust solution to defend against cybercrime. A proactive approach helps further protect your assets, brand reputation, and customer trust.
However, it’s also important to remember that the dark web is just one factor of cybersecurity, and an all-around solution is recommended.
One such solution is offered by Prey Project, with a plan that includes active tracking, easy management, and reliable protection, with notifications, geofencing, automations, and more. It’s currently available on a 14-day trial, with no obligation whatsoever.
Upgrade your defense against potential breaches and cyber theft. Start a Trial with Prey today. It’s never been easier to safeguard your business’s sensitive data.