You’ve done everything you can think of to protect your organization from cyber criminals — from installing firewalls and SIEM tools to training employees to recognize suspicious emails. No matter how robust your cyber defenses are, however, there’s always the risk that something will slip through the cracks.
So how can you detect when you’ve been the target of a cyber attack, enabling you to take a proactive response? That’s exactly the purpose of cybersecurity strategies such as Dark Web threat monitoring.
As a launching pad for many hacking attempts, the Dark Web is a common hangout for criminals — both those looking to commit an attack and those looking to profit from a successful attack. Therefore, Dark Web monitoring, keeping an eye on these criminals’ activities and behaviors, is an essential cybersecurity practice.
In this article, we’ll go over five reasons why watching the Dark Web is so important for businesses of all sizes and industries.
What Is the Dark Web?
The “Dark Web” sounds ominous — and for companies without a strong cybersecurity posture, it certainly can be. Fundamentally, however, the Dark Web is merely a term for any website that requires special tools, browsers, or configurations to access.
This means that Dark Web sites can’t be viewed with normal web browsers such as Firefox or Google Chrome. Instead, the most common method of using the Dark Web is with purpose-built software such as Tor, a web browser designed to preserve users’ anonymity.
Users are, by default, anonymous while browsing the Dark Web, thanks to the complicated way that traffic is sent across the network. This fact has led to the rise of Dark Web marketplaces: websites for buying and selling goods and services in secret — especially illicit ones, such as drugs, stolen data, and fraudulent documents. However, the Dark Web can be used for more benevolent purposes as well, especially by those concerned about privacy and government surveillance.
What Is Dark Web Monitoring?
Dark Web monitoring is the action of passively observing the Dark Web to detect cyber attacks in the past and better prepare for cyber attacks in the future.
Stolen and hacked credentials are some of the most commonly sold products in Dark Web marketplaces. The types of personal data records available on the Dark Web include:
Social Security numbers
Credit card and debit card numbers
Email addresses, usernames, and passwords
Health and medical records
Organizations, too, can fall victim to cyber attacks that result in stolen data. After a successful hack, hackers may leak sensitive information, such as their intellectual property, trade secrets, and financial records, on the Dark Web.
Because the Dark Web is a haven for criminal activity, individuals and businesses often find their data for sale here. Thus, one goal of Dark Web monitoring is to find this information as soon as possible once it appears, providing irrefutable evidence of a data breach.
Dark Web threat monitoring also provides advance notice of hackers’ activities. By watching the Dark Web, you can identify new attack vectors, malware, and other tools and methodologies before they pose a real threat to your cybersecurity.
Although the Dark Web makes up just a small percentage of the entire Internet, it is still a vast and tangled ecosystem, particularly since search engines like Google do not index it. Thus, any successful attempt at Dark Web threat monitoring must cover the breadth of the Dark Web: marketplaces, forums, discussion channels, file-sharing websites, and more.
Dark Web monitoring tools are software applications for performing automated website crawling, scanning, or scraping. The data collected by these tools is then stored and checked against known patterns, looking for stolen credentials, files, and intellectual property. In the absence of search engines or any centralized authority on the Dark Web, these monitoring tools provide some semblance of order to the chaotic, constantly evolving Dark Web.
5 Reasons Dark Web Threat Monitoring is Crucial
The Dark Web is a nexus for coordinating, launching, and profiting from cyber attacks. Engaging in Dark Web threat monitoring is therefore a wise idea for any business or individual concerned about cybersecurity. In this section, we’ll discuss the 5 most important reasons for watching the Dark Web.
1. Understanding your opponents better
The old saying “Forewarned is forearmed” has never been more true than with the Dark Web. By watching the Dark Web, you can track would-be attackers on their own turf, gleaning insights into their plans and motivations.
The Dark Web is home to countless forums and marketplaces where cybercriminals ply their wares, discuss attack strategies, and more. With Dark Web threat monitoring, organizations can gain the upper hand by collecting priceless intel: identifying both the actors who threaten them and the tools and techniques they use to carry out their attacks.
For example, Dark Web monitoring can discover ongoing threats or premeditated assaults on a particular business or industry by tracking mentions of company names across different sites. Attacks on organizations with similar profiles are a strong clue that your business may also be a target.
2. Getting early notice of attack plans
Not only can Dark Web monitoring offer useful information about attackers and provide an early warning of their plans. The Dark Web is full of hacking forums and channels where users share tools and advice, including asking for tips on an upcoming attack.
Of course, cybercriminals rarely go into full detail about their schemes, at least on relatively public sites. However, savvy businesses can harvest a great deal of information on attackers simply by watching the Dark Web over time. A mention of a particular software tool or security vulnerability, for example, may be enough to convince organizations that they need to bolster their defenses against a similar attack.
3. Finding new hacker tools and exploits
Beyond the insights into attackers and their plans, the Dark Web provides a window into the tools and exploits these hackers use. Keeping an eye on attackers’ favorite software is essential to Dark Web monitoring.
One crucial trend is that Dark Web hacking tools have recently become more accessible to a wider, less technically skilled audience. For example, the past several years have seen the rise of so-called “ransomware as a service” kits that make it much easier to launch a ransomware attack.
4. Detecting attacks on your organization
If the worst has occurred and your business is the victim of a cyber attack, you’ll rarely know about it right away. For a number of reasons, criminals often prefer to keep their activities secret for as long as possible: hiding their tracks, keeping a back door open for later attacks, etc.
Thus, companies often realize that an attack or breach has happened only when they find their data on the Dark Web. With Dark Web threat monitoring, organizations receive notice immediately when compromised records or documents are detected. This enables you to act responsibly by notifying affected users and any regulatory authorities.
5. Mitigating the spread of stolen data
The more you use digital and online services, the more likely you’ll fall victim to a data breach at some point. Unfortunately, once stolen data or credentials are out there on the Dark Web, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to remove them completely. However, businesses and individuals can still take action to protect themselves and make this information less valuable (and therefore less appealing to Dark Web buyers).
If you’re the victim of a personal data breach, for example, you can change your passwords and turn on multi-factor authentication to protect your accounts online. You can also change your payment card information and enlist the help of credit monitoring services to identify fraudulent or suspicious activity.
There are five reasons why threat monitoring on the Dark Web is so important:
Dark Web threat monitoring helps you understand the mindset and activities of attackers.
Watching the Dark Web can alert you to hacking plans before the attack begins.
Dark Web monitoring provides insights into novel attack tools and methodologies.
Identifying stolen data on the Dark Web helps you detect when your defenses have been breached.
Dark Web threat monitoring helps you take proactive steps in the wake of an attack.
With so many sites on the Dark Web to monitor, how can you cover all your bases? The answer is sign up for a service like FYEO Domain Intelligence. FYEO DI helps protect businesses from cyber attacks with a variety of real-time threat monitoring and intelligence tools.
For example, FYEO’s database of more than 23 billion leaked credentials, plaintext passwords, and phone numbers is one of the largest in the world. We send a notification to users when their personal information appears on the Dark Web, enabling them to take action immediately to defend their data privacy and security.