On the one hand, the cat and mouse game of cybersecurity has made organizations large and small aware of the importance of digital security. On the other hand, it has motivated cybercriminals to develop more sophisticated tactics, such as spear phishing and ransomware. Today’s cybercriminals are more determined than ever, and their main motivation is profit—not fame.
In the first half of 2018 alone, they were responsible for stealing over 5 billion records, many of which have since been offered for sale on the dark web, the part of the internet that is hidden from search engines and can typically be accessed only with special software.
In reality, the real number of stolen records might be much higher because many organizations have yet to make dark web search part of their cybersecurity strategies, which means they have no way of knowing whether they’ve been breached or not.
What Is Dark Web Search?
Associated primarily with the drug trade and other illegal activities, the dark web has become home to those who wish to keep their real identity hidden. It’s also home to digital marketplaces and discussion boards frequented by cybercriminals who make a living by selling stolen records, such as email addresses, credit card numbers, social security numbers, and so on.
In fact, security researchers discovered that 75% of vulnerabilities appear on the dark web before their first disclosure and release on the National Vulnerability Database (NVD). Sometimes, the organizations whose data are offered for sale on the dark web are not aware that they’ve been breached until someone purchases the stolen data and uses it for illegal purposes.
The good news is that the dark web is much smaller than the web most people are familiar with. According to a 2015 scan of the Tor network, which disguises its users by moving traffic across different Tor servers and encrypting that traffic so it can’t be traced, only 2,000 sites were active.
Still, manually monitoring 2,000 sites would be too big of a challenge for most organizations, which is why dark web search services continue to gain popularity. There is now a number of providers that scan the dark web for compromised personal information, instantly alerting any organization that pays for their services when its records appear on the dark web.
Why Dark Web Search Matters?
While dark web search is still one of the less-known security solutions, there are many reasons why organizations should make it part of their cybersecurity strategies. “With so much of your personal information already compromised, you need to be vigilant—always watching for warning signs of data theft and doing things that make it more difficult for criminals to use the data they’ve stolen,” said Adam Levin, founder of CyberScout,
By monitoring the dark web, organizations can significantly improve their data breach response and minimize the negative consequences of undisclosed data breaches, which include reputation damage as well as steep fines. Dark web search can also alert organizations to newly discovered security vulnerabilities, allowing them to patch them before cybercriminals have the chance to exploit them.
According to Gartner analyst Avivah Litan, “Insiders are being actively recruited by criminals operating on the dark web,” and they are often gladly selling their services to the bad guys in order to inflict harm on their employers. With dark web search, it’s possible to mitigate such insider threats and prevent malicious employees from causing harm to the organization.
Include Dark Web Search in Your Cybersecurity Strategy
Determining whether an organization’s private data is being sold on the dark web can be a real challenge, but the possible consequences of ignoring this important component of any cybersecurity strategy can be grave.
Security budgets and spending are on the rise, jumping 8.7% this year, as organizations race to strengthen their defenses by implementing sophisticated cybersecurity solutions, but access to reliable information is still the only way how to keep cyber threats at bay.
Dark web search services allow organizations to:
- Monitor mentions on the dark web.
- Keep track of dark web marketplaces where cybercriminals sell stolen records.
- Discover zero-day exploits before cybercriminals get a chance to use them.
- Infiltrate closed dark web communities where disgruntled employees might be leaking sensitive information.
- Reduce breach response time.
Neglecting dark web search is akin to a bank leaving the key to its vault under the doormat. With billions of records stolen every year, organizations need to face the fact and realize that it’s almost guaranteed that someone they employ has lost a username and password to cybercriminals, who now most likely offer it for sale on the dark web.
For expensive cybersecurity solutions to be useful, it’s paramount to locate all lost records and take appropriate steps to prevent cybercriminals from taking advantage of them. Only then can organizations rest assured, knowing their digital doors are closed and nobody can just waltz into them and cause havoc.
Even though the dark web has many legitimate uses, the fact remains that it’s frequented mostly by cybercriminals, who use it to sell stolen intellectual property and private information. Regularly searching the dark web can help organizations identify breaches and vulnerabilities, which is why dark web search is an important part of any cybersecurity strategy.
Written by: Payam Pourkhomami, President & CEO, OSIbeyond