While in the past a new business would only have to worry about physical threats that might walk in and try to steal from them, those days are long gone. Now, the biggest threat to businesses are invisible attackers that they will never even see coming until it’s too late.
These individuals are lurking in the shadows of your company’s network instead. This makes them even more dangerous than the criminals of yore, but where do they go after their attacks? Where do these cockroaches flee to? It’s called the dark web.
What is the dark web?
Ironically, the technology which makes the dark web possible was created by the US government in the 1990s. It’s called TOR, and this software allows computers to exchange information anonymously. Now, TOR has become synonymous with the dark web.
However, the dark web itself is much more than that. It’s a huge network of anonymous and hidden websites where the criminal world now does business. This includes a medley of unsavoury illicit activity from drug deals to weapons trading to child pornography rings.
The dark web is not entirely bad though, and there are some people who use it for legitimate purposes. This includes political activists and journalists who need to pass information anonymously to remain safe in corrupt countries.
The most interesting thing about the dark web though is that until recently nobody really cared about it, so what happened?
The arrival of the silk road and the explosion of the dark web
The Silk Road was an online marketplace on the dark web that allowed individuals to purchase illegal items for Bitcoin. In most cases, these users were kids looking to buy party drugs on the internet, but in 2013 the Silk Road was taken down, and in its place, many other dark web marketplaces have sprung up.
While many people despised the Silk Road for its blatant disregard for the law, it did have rules in place which permitted the sale of many things. Its new competitors though were not so caring about who became the victims of these sales.
Now, the dark net has exploded with activity surrounding crimes which are no longer as harmless as people doing their personal festival shopping. The dark net’s new business is in fraud and identity theft.
Cybercriminals now scrape and sell the personal data of individuals and businesses which they’ve stolen from websites or computers with poor security. This could include credit card numbers, medicare numbers, banking details, private documents and more.
What if my data is on the dark web?
If your information is already on the dark web, then there’s little that you can do. While the authorities do take these sites down when they can it’s likely that another one will simply pop up with it for sale again.
The best method for protecting yourself is to make sure this never happens. For an individual, the dangers of the dark web will be related to their identities, but the prize is often different for cybercriminals who are targeting a business.
They’ll most often go after your files. They want to compromise your databases so that they can either steal and then sell your customers information or even hold your information for ransom until you pay them. This can be scary, and it’s possible that everything you’ve worked so hard to build could be lost in one of these attacks.
What can I do to protect myself?
Protecting yourself from these criminals means having a good prevention method in place. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself.
Beef up your cybersecurity
Is your network security up to snuff? If not, you may want to have a cybersecurity company audit your safety procedures. This is particularly important if you work in an industry where you’ll be storing sensitive information on your customers.
Just installing a simple firewall is not enough. As your business grows you become a bigger target, and don’t think that just because you’re a local business that you won’t be attacked. Ransomware attackers couldn’t care less who you are as long as you pay.
Using two-factor authentication, a technique which requires more than one form of credentials, often one involving something that must be physically present, can help with this. While not fool proof, it makes it much harder for your accounts to be compromised.
Teach your employees good security habits
More often than not when someone says they were “hacked” the truth is that they were a victim of a phishing scam. Phishing doesn’t use brute force attacks to access your network, it simply asks your most vulnerable employee for the keys.
That’s why it’s important to make sure that everyone in your organization is up to speed on safety protocols. You should be having training sessions that help them to identify and avoid scams and to recognize when something is up.
However, if you have addressed the first item on our list, then your cybersecurity team should have roadblocks in place that stop naive employees from wandering into many traps designed to steal your information.
Though training your employees on safety protocols is something that you can do for free without even employing any new software. It just takes time and knowledge to accomplish.
Sign up for dark net monitoring
There are actually services which will monitor the dark web for you and tell you if your information is being sold. While there’s not a lot you can do if it’s already there, it does give you a heads up that allows you to go into disaster recovery mode.
You can use this opportunity to change your passwords, up your security levels and protect yourself from data breaches before they happen.
There are some cybersecurity firms which include this as a service in their packages, and that means they can take care of everything for you. This is particularly useful for smaller medical practices which handle sensitive information but may not have a large enough infrastructure to warrant a fulltime IT department.