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October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Its a great time to become more knowledgeable about the resources at your fingertips. The internet is one of our biggest resources, and its becoming more essential for every-day business each year. You probably use it on the daily, both inside and outside of work. You may be familiar with navigating your way around Google, Facebook, Amazon, shopping sites, and news sites. Did you know that you are actually only visiting four percent of the internet? There’s a whole world hiding beyond these safe surface-level sites, known as the Dark Web, and it’s a much less hospitable place. Even though it may seem very nebulous, it has the ability to severely impact your life.

What exactly is the Dark Web?

The Dark Web is a conglomeration of websites that cannot be found on search engines or accessed via traditional web browsers. This is because their location and identity is hidden through encryption tools such as TOR. TOR was originally created to protect military communication but now has a much broader utilization for both Dark Web purposes and highly secure communication. You typically have to access these kinds of sites utilizing TOR.

People create sites on the Dark Web in order to hide where they’re operating from, as well as to remain anonymous (TOR hides all IP information, identifying information, as well as data transfers). Over half of these sites are used for criminal activities. While using TOR and accessing the Dark Web is legal, it isn’t always safe, so be careful when if you are considering using TOR. There are other, safer methods to protect your data while online than accessing TOR.

Why Do People Use the Dark Web?

One of the most prevalent uses of the Dark Web is buying and selling illegal goods, such as recreational drugs, weapons, fake identities, and organs. The proliferation of cryptocurrencies—like Bitcoin—has facilitated these sales. People living within totalitarian societies that restrict communication also take to the Dark Web to share their thoughts freely.

The most dangerous use of the Dark Web for businesses is the exchange of credentials (usernames and passwords) and identities. An individual’s stolen credentials can typically be sold on the Dark Web for as low as $1. Hackers utilize these purchased credentials to:

  • Gain access to important financial information and steal identities (access to a Bank of America account holding $50,000 can be purchased for $500)
  • Access accounts for further phishing attacks
  • Threaten people with exposure of sensitive information (Remember the Ashley Madison hack from a few years back? Those credentials were dumped onto the Dark Web and hackers leveraged them to expose users).
  • Compromise other accounts that are using the same passwords and perpetuate the sale of personal information

How does this impact you?

The average citizen will never have a reason to access the Dark Web, but their credentials could easily be floating around, endangering their offline livelihoods. Once your credentials are released on the Dark Web, there is precious little you can do to have them removed. However, you should, at the very least, know when you’ve been compromised so that you can immediately act, changing your passwords and activating two-factor authentication on accounts with that capability.

We recommend utilizing a full Dark Web monitoring service that alerts you if credentials appear on the Dark Web. These services constantly scan for your information and alert you whenever something suspicious appears. These alerts don’t necessarily mean a breach has occurred, but they are very good heads up that something bad may be coming. You can then create a plan of attack before any damage is done. Granted, there will be your fair share of false positives, but we firmly believe in operating in the better safe than sorry camp.

Other tools, such as VPNs, encryption tools, and multi-factor authentication, can help to protect your information or reduce the risk in the case of a breach of information. Knowing what information was compromised can also prepare you to see phishing emails that use the compromised information to sound legitimate. Being aware of compromised information can help you to avoid hackers’ attempts to scare you into action on malicious emails.

How should you get started with Dark Web monitoring?

Don’t have access to your own monitoring tool? Our team can run a preliminary scan of your domain to reveal the likely breaches in the last 36 months. We’ll then review that report with you and come up with a plan of action to alleviate any major dangers. You can click here to request that scan.

The internet may come with a lot of dangers, but there are ways to protect yourself so you can breath easier. Don’t waste time worrying about your risk online, keep yourself educated and plan ahead to protect your company.

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