What Is the Dark Web? Why Does It Matter?
Most people don’t fully understand the different levels of the internet. The surface level is what most of us use. You can type in a web address or perform a Google search to find what you are looking for. These websites are indexed and easy to find. The next level is the deep web. These sites aren’t indexed, and they can’t be found via a search engine. The dark web is a subset of the deep web.
The dark web requires you to know the exact address of the site you are looking for. It isn’t possible to stumble on a site through a search or standard internet browsing. Most dark web sites require you to use a TOR browser and a VPN, which provide nearly flawless anonymity.
The Anonymity Effect
Studies have shown that aggressive online behavior increases with anonymity. Illegal activities are also more likely to occur when the person is anonymous. Anonymity removes traditional societal constraints and consequences for actions. Some people are willing to engage in illegal activities in society believing that they are above the law and simply won’t get caught. Others desire to engage in illegal activities, but the fear of consequences prevents them from doing so. When anonymity is provided, these people are comfortable carrying out acts that they wouldn’t engage in otherwise.
Illegal Activities on the Dark Web
A 2015 study revealed that 57% of dark web content was related to illegal activity. There is a multitude of illegal activities that are carried out on the dark web. There are three broad categories of illegal activities commonly carried out on the dark web. It isn’t surprising that they all involve sales. Money is the ultimate driver for most criminal enterprises.
These categories are:
- Illegal sales of products
- Illegal sales of services
- Illegal sales of information
Illegal sales of products include drugs and weapons. You can also purchase hacking software on the dark web which poses a threat to businesses. For businesses, the illegal sales of services and information pose the greatest risk. They sell murder contracts and sexual interactions on the dark web. However, there are also hackers for hire. The illegal sale of information poses a risk to individuals and businesses. It’s possible to purchase anything from a lifetime Netflix subscription to bank account credentials. Sensitive company information may also be on the dark web for the right price.
Another dark web trend with an effect on businesses is insider recruitment. Hackers pay employees with unscrupulous morals to provide access to company information or install malware that disables the company’s security protocols.
An unfortunate part of today’s business world is not only protecting the company from people on the outside but employees on the inside as well. These breaches aren’t always malicious. A curious employee may also click a dark web link that allows malware into your system with no knowledge of what they are doing.
The risks to businesses from the dark web is increasing, and the trend is not expected to slow. A study by the University of Surrey revealed that the amount of illegal listings on the dark web that could harm businesses has increased by 20% since 2016.
How to Protect Your Business
There are several methods you can use to protect your business from the dark web. First, access to the dark web should be blocked for most businesses. There are some legitimate uses for the dark web, but the vast majority of businesses do not need to access it. Blocking access to the dark web from company computers can prevent employees from allowing malware into the system, intentionally or unintentionally.
The second way to protect your business from the dark web is to monitor it for sensitive company information. If you aren’t monitoring the dark web, information or access to your business could be out there. If you don’t know there has been a breach, you are relegated to conducting damage control after the fact. The Marriott data breach is a perfect example of the costs of learning about a data breach too late. Hackers obtained two employees’ login credentials. They used these credentials for a month, obtaining the data of over five million hotel guests before authorities discovered it.
Managed IT services provide the proactive services needed to keep your business safe from the dangers of the dark web. The IT provider can block dark web access on company computers, manage firewall and security settings, and monitor the dark web. This puts you in a position to focus on your business with the peace of mind that strong cybersecurity provides.
This is time-consuming and requires the proper technical knowledge. Many businesses use a managed IT solution to monitor the dark web with computer programs and human oversight.