As you browse the Internet and check in on the sites you use most frequently, such as Google, social media channels, Amazon, news networks, etc. you may feel that you have a firm grasp on how to navigate and use the web. What you may not know is that most people’s basic page visits only makeup four percent of the Internet. There’s a whole world (96% of the Internet) hiding beyond these safe surface-level sites, full of much less hospitable content. This deep underground part of the web is known as the Dark Web. And it’s crucial to be aware of and avoid at all costs.
What exactly Is the Dark Web?
To put it simply, the Dark Web is the black market of the internet. It is made up of websites that cannot be found on search engines or accessed via traditional web browsers because their location and identity are hidden through encryption tools. People create sites on the Dark Web in order to conceal where they’re operating from, as well as to remain anonymous. Over half of the sites on the Dark Web are used for criminal activities.
Why Do People Use the Dark Web?
Like the black market, 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 rapid growth 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 without fear of repercussions.
The most dangerous use of the Dark Web, however, especially 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 the low price of $1 to $8. 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
- Compromise other accounts using the same passwords and perpetuate the sale of personal information
What Is the Future of the Dark Web?
The Dark Web is actually shrinking after years of defunct sites, exit scams, and indictments. A recent report from cyber threat intelligence company, Recorded Future, titled Who’s Afraid of the Dark? Hype Versus Reality on the Dark Web found that the Dark Web is currently much smaller than imagined and dominated by inactive websites. It’s not impossible to suspect that a new generation of criminals, dissidents, and privacy enthusiasts, however, will likely revive it using stronger anonymizing protocols while also conducting more criminal activity on the clear web.
Will the dark web collapse? This is unlikely. Cybercrime, much of it enabled by the dark web, is a trillion-dollar industry that has grown even more due to the pandemic. The dark web has too many invested players, including organized crime groups, making too much money for it to disappear.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Business?
The Dark Web is a dangerous place that’s presence illustrates the importance of establishing robust security protocols and procedures to protect yourself and your organization. With private information exchanged regularly on the Dark Web, it’s crucial to ensure that the usernames and passwords you use are unique and strong. Do not use the same password on multiple websites you typically use when working. It is also important that your organization’s IT department requires regular password updates and strong password protocols so that employees aren’t reusing weak passwords. If team members voice challenges of keeping track of passwords, encourage them to use a password manager to store their various passwords, but do NOT have them store passwords in their web browser as it is less secure. Your organization may want to consider adding identity theft protection benefits to your lineup of employee benefits so that team members can opt-in for an additional layer of protection. Lastly, on a regular basis, your organization should use a tool or a service to scan the dark web for information related to your internet domains.
The Dark Web is an intimidating place, but with the right training and procedures in motion, you can rest assured that you are doing everything you can to protect your data from cybercriminals. If you are interested in learning how your company’s cybersecurity stacks up, take BerganKDV’s free mini security assessment here. This will provide you a baseline look at potential threats and opportunities in your technology and organizational infrastructure. If you have additional questions about tactics you can take to protect your organization, we encourage you to reach out to one of BerganKDV’s cybersecurity experts.