The Internet has always been considered a convenient tool in the modern age - allowing you to find anything, anyone, and anywhere within seconds. Search engines like Google or Bing have changed the game when it comes to finding information. However, like all technology, the Internet is a very complex structure. General websites and web search engines usually make up the “surface web.” This is the layer of the internet accessible and searchable to the general public. Unlike the iceberg, the surface web is just the tip of the iceberg; and the dark web is something that is hidden. That’s why dark web monitoring has become very important.
Going to lower levels, you’ll find the deep web which is not indexed by any search engine – making it inaccessible to the public. This includes anything behind a paywall or a sign-in page – such as medical records, banking sites, social media, and more. Estimates place the size of the deep web at between 96% and 99% of the internet. Moving lower down the rabbit hole, you finally get to the infamous dark web.
What is Dark Web Monitoring?
The dark web is the lowest layer of the internet that is intentionally hidden. Within this layer, searches are not tracked, IP addresses are hidden, and users are kept anonymous. These conditions have made the dark web the ideal breeding ground for several illicit and illegal activities.
While the dark web only makes up for about 6% of the internet, it can be very destructive. We share personal information with companies and websites daily to buy things, subscribe to content, and more. This information is stored by the company and is often the target of cyber-criminals. These hackers will take advantage of poor cybersecurity measures to breach a company’s network and steal your data.
After that, threat actors will attempt to sell the data on the dark web to the highest bidder. Ransomware groups will also use the dark web to leak stolen data if their ransom demands are not met. This is where dark web monitoring will help you out. Dark web monitoring is the process of searching the dark web for any stolen or leaked information. Using threat intelligence software, dark web monitoring tools will notify you if any credentials have been compromised.
What is on the Dark Web?
The dark web is filled with anonymous websites and is notorious for its marketplaces where people can buy or sell drugs, weapons, and more. The infamous Silk Road was one of the first of these online marketplaces for illegal transactions. Launched in 2011, the site was shut down by the FBI in 2013. However, several others have since popped up to take its place. The dark web is also used to run human trafficking rings and to distribute child pornography. Cybercriminals can also use the dark web to advertise their ransomware-as-a-service platforms and other hacking skills.
The use of Bitcoin has also allowed dark web transactions to be more secure and private. Many hackers will sell company or personal information, credit card credentials, hacked social media accounts, and more on the dark web.
What are the Benefits of Dark Web?
While the above information sounds very unsavory, the dark web isn’t only a hub of criminal behavior but can be useful for regular citizens and government agencies. The companies also hire White Hat Hackers who can go to Dark Web and find very useful information that is helpful to government organizations.
- The anonymity of the dark web is useful for most government agencies and security to monitor online activity without their identities being revealed. This can help governments find personal identifiers and shut down any criminal activity online.
- The dark web is also the ideal platform for civil rights groups, journalists, and whistleblowers to keep safe while leaking information.
- Moreover, the dark web can also simply be used to prevent companies and governments from tracking harmless online activities.
Is the Dark Web Illegal?
Technically accessing the dark web is legal in most countries. However, conducting any criminal activity on the dark web is still illegal. Some governments have much stricter laws that could see you at the center of investigations or scrutiny for even accessing the dark web. Like any tool, the dark web is legal when used for legal purposes.
What Happens If You Go on The Dark Web?
To access the dark web, you need to use an anonymizing browser called The Onion Router – or Tor. The US Naval Research Laboratory project was created initially for intelligence sources as a way to communicate easily and safely. With the Tor browser, you can route your web page requests through a series of proxy servers operated by thousands of volunteers around the globe. The Tor network will ensure that your IP address is unidentifiable and untraceable.
For anyone accessing the dark web, there are a few risks that you take. While you can use a VPN or proxy servers, you are still exposing yourself and your network to multiple malware and potential cyber-attacks. You might also find it difficult to navigate without prior knowledge and end up on the wrong end of an online scam. The dark web will also expose you to extreme, graphic content and can also alert security authorities about your access.
Risks of the Dark Web
While it may have its benefits for some, this part of the internet has also proven to be perfect for cybercriminals and ransomware groups to communicate with each other and the public. The dark web has proven to be the ideal setting for hackers to communicate with their victims, sell stolen data, and expose confidential information. Tulane University published an article detailing the cybersecurity threat that the dark web presented.
Demetrice Rogers, the cybersecurity expert at the university, has noted that “the dark web’s encrypted nature provides a veil of secrecy for those seeking to evade law enforcement and security agencies.” He further stated that “its anonymity allows hackers to operate with relative impunity, making it an attractive hub for illegal activities, cybercriminal enterprises, and underground forums.” Rogers warned that once an individual or a business’s information is listed on the dark web, it’s a “free game” for anyone to use.
Rogers explained that the MOVEIt cyber-attacks also “sparked a renewed interest in the dangers of the dark web and its role in ransomware attacks, data breaches, and other cyber threats that harm businesses and individuals.” The dark web has allowed hackers to plan, orchestrate, and operate sophisticated cyber-attacks on companies and individuals alike under the cloak of anonymity.
How Does Dark Web Monitoring Work?
Dark web monitoring tools work by actively scanning the dark web for any of your personal information or credentials. After finding any data linked to you or your business, the tool will notify you of the compromised data. The entire process of dark web monitoring can be charted as follows:
- Scanning the Dark Web: To find any compromised data, the dark web monitoring tool needs to scan thousands of websites, marketplaces, and forums on the dark web. This is done with a specific identification software.
- Identification: After scanning, the specialized software then identifies the stolen or leaked data about you or your company. This proves the legitimacy of the data and is done by comparing credentials, personal information, and more.
- Notifying the Business: After identifying the stolen data, the dark web monitoring service will send an alert to the business. This allows the business to react quickly and secure the breach before more damage is done.
- Composing a Breach Report: The dark web monitoring software will then create a detailed report on the compromised data. This helps the company evaluate vulnerable areas and improve its cybersecurity measures.
- Consistent monitoring: A dark web monitoring tool continuously scouts the dark web for stolen data. This makes it a long-term investment for your company’s security that stays a step ahead.
Dark Web Monitoring Tools
To properly protect your company from the dangers of the dark web, you need to invest in dark web monitoring services that go the extra mile. Here are a few examples of dark web monitoring tools available for optimal data security:
- IntSights Threat Intelligence Platform: The IntSights Threat Intelligence Platform uses external threat intelligence and monitoring to mine the dark web for tactics, techniques, and procedures of threat actors and malware variants. This helps to up updated on the latest attack methods and improves the security posture of your company. It also gives you a window into active conversations on the dark web to let you react proactively to threats.
- Mandiant Digital Threat Monitoring: With Mandiant Digital Threat Monitoring, you enjoy full visibility of threats and leaked credentials with data driven by machine learning. The platform also ensures the monitoring of trusted partnering companies to maintain a secure supply chain.
- Brandefense: As an AI-driven DRPS solution, Brandefense scans both the surface web and the dark web to gather information on attack methods or data breaches to keep your data secure.
- LastPass: With LastPass, you can protect your business and employees from a data breach. The password manager platform allows users to generate, store, and share credentials in a secure way. The service also ensures additional security features and provides valuable insight and control to admins.
- IBM X-Force Exchange: IBM X-Force Exchange is primarily a data-sharing platform and community that shifts threat intelligence into an interactive and searchable database. Most of the tools are free and allow you to customize your searches according to your needs.
- usecure: With usecure, you can measure your employee’s cybersecurity posture and improve and enhance protection as necessary. The platform uses tailored security awareness training programs, custom phishing simulations, ongoing dark web monitoring, simplified policy management processes, and ongoing human risk scoring to enhance your core security standards.
- Flashpoint Physical Security Intelligence (PSI): The Flashpoint Physical Security Intelligence platform is an open-source intelligence solution that gathers data from a wide range of online sources. Its intuitive functions allow users to search, filter, monitor, visualize, and analyze the data on a simple dashboard. It also sends alerts when search criteria are triggered and uses geolocation, language detection, and threat detection to provide valuable context to the information discovered.
Final Thought on Dark Web Monitoring
Dark Web Monitoring is a crucial practice for safeguarding online security. By monitoring the hidden layer of the internet, organizations can proactively protect their data, prevent breaches, and stay informed about emerging threats in the cybercriminal underground. To learn about other topics on cybersecurity, visit www.sangfor.com or contact us directly.
FAQs on Dark Web Monitoring
The dark web is a part of the internet where IP addresses and identities are intentionally concealed to avoid being tracked by companies or the government.
The dark web contains many websites, illegal marketplaces, criminal content, and more. While a lot of the dark contains harmful content and is a breeding ground for cyber-criminals to sell their services, the dark web is also useful for governments, journalists, and whistleblowers.
You can access the dark web using a Tor browser which allows you to navigate the area without being tracked. Your AP address will be cloaked but you might also be exposed to explicit content, criminal behavior, and malware scams.
Ian Clarke, a student at the University of Edinburgh, created Freenet which led to the release of the dark web in 2000. The thesis project was initially meant to create a "Distributed Decentralized Information Storage and Retrieval System."
Dark web monitoring is the process of scanning the dark web for evidence of a data breach. These dark web monitoring tools find credentials to alert companies that their data has been compromised.
Yes. A dark web monitoring service is a reliable platform that can help you stay ahead of a data breach.
When compared to the price of a data breach for most companies, a dark web monitoring tool is the ideal investment to ensure long-term data security.
Here are a few examples of dark web monitoring tools available:
- IntSights Threat Intelligence Platform
- Mandiant Digital Threat Monitoring
- IBM X-Force Exchange
- Flashpoint Physical Security Intelligence (PSI)