There’s more to the internet than most of us know. While the term “dark web” sounds like something from a movie, its real-world impact can be significant. For this reason, it’s important to understand what the dark web is, why you should care and how you can protect yourself from this invisible ocean of dangers.
The layers of the internet
Think of the internet you use on a daily basis as the surface of what’s really out there. You’re presented with standard Internet service providers, public search engines and all of the websites that are searchable through engines like Google.
Below the internet most of us know is what’s known as the “deep web.” This level comprises 90% of all the information on the internet and cannot be accessed publicly. While it may be private information, that doesn’t necessarily make it nefarious. Much of the deep web consists of medical records, information databases like Lexus Nexus or financial records. The deep web hosts information that isn’t publicly available and requires special access. For instance, if you wanted to find pricing on flights from Chicago to Seattle, you could search for them in Google, however, the results of a particular flight are not available until you select travel dates and times. Deep web information is out there, it just requires some digging to discover.
A level beneath the deep web is where we find the "dark web." This layer is made up of private, encrypted networks which require specific tools and knowledge to access and provide cybercriminals with a haven to illegally trade information and services. The phrase “dark web” refers to places on the internet which are not indexed by traditional search engines because they’re intentionally hidden and are inaccessible through standard web browsers. In fact, one of the most notable dark web networks requires its own specific browser to access it.
While not every website on the dark web engages in criminal activity, it is where sites that illegally sell consumer data and other black-market goods tend to congregate. In many instances, stolen data ends up on the dark web where criminals buy and sell it to commit fraud, obtain fake identity documents or fund criminal organizations.
For example, according to the Federal Trade Commission, information available for sale on the dark web is up to 20 times more likely to come from an entity whose breach wasn’t reported in the media and many of these companies are small retailers and restaurant chains. As a matter of fact, most of the breaches the United States Secret Service investigates are attacks on small businesses.
Protecting yourself from invisible threats
So, what does this mean for your organization? If a cybercriminal manages to steal valuable personal or business information, there’s no telling when or where they’ll decide to list it for sale on the dark web. Ongoing scans of the dark web for stolen information is the only way to know if you’ve been affected. Personal information in the wrong hands can lead to:
- Ransomware attacks that destroy your information archives.
- Loss of customers. A study conducted by Centrify found that 30%+ of consumers discontinued their relationship with breached organizations.
- Average stock price decline of 5% following disclosure of breach.
- Damage to customers personally. Cases of small business breaches have been documented causing extreme problems for their customers. Victims of identity theft have even been arrested due to warrants issued in their name or denied medical supplies because their medical history was stolen.
What to do
Luckily, there are solutions. For small businesses, some IT providers (including Switchfast) provide dark web security monitoring services.
If you’re interested in having your organization’s information and credentials monitored on the dark web, Switchfast offers a one-time complimentary vulnerability scan (for qualifying accounts) for your information and offers ongoing monitoring to alert you when your data is accessible to criminals — before it may be used against you. Learn more about our dark web monitoring and request a free scan here.
For more information on protecting your company, read our practical guide to keeping your business safe and secure or visit our blog to learn why small businesses aren’t doing more to be cyber secure.