Have you heard of the Darknet?
Find out what it is and how it may be a danger to your small business.
The Internet can be a scary place. Between phishing, malware and a range of scams, there are many dangers. But there’s an even a darker corner of the web where few people dare to venture—And it can have a wide-reaching effect on your business: The Dark Web.
The Dark Web is a small part of the much larger Deep Web–a common name for a collection of websites that aren’t accessible through normal Internet browsers. These websites are hidden from everyday Internet, or Clearnet, users through the use of overlay networks. They are built on the framework of networks that already exist—And there are lots of them. In fact, the Deep Web makes up the majority of the information online.
Personal information such as school and medical records, bank statements and private emails are all part of the immense Deep Web. To gain access to this information, you must be able to access an overlay network using specialized software and passwords. This is a good thing because it keeps sensitive information safe, and prevents search engines from accessing and indexing it.
The added security of the Deep Web makes it attractive for those who want their online activities to remain anonymous. The Dark Web is a small part of the Deep Web. Unlike the Deep Web which prevents outsiders from accessing information, the owners of dark websites allow anyone with the right browser to access their sites. One of the most popular of these is The Onion Browser, more commonly known as Tor.
So, What’s on the Dark Web?
The Dark Web is like “The Wild West” of the Internet. It’s an area beyond the reach of law enforcement (hence there are no regulations or protection). Although not everyone who uses the Dark Web engages in illicit activities, it has a history of being a platform for political dissidents and corporate whistle blowers—Many visitors are there for less than upstanding reasons.
Most know the Dark Web for its virtual bazaars full of products ranging from illegal drugs and social security numbers, to ready-to-install viruses and hackers for hire. A raid by the FBI and subsequent closure of one the most infamous of these businesses, Silk Road, first alerted many people to the existence of the Dark Web. The Silk Road was one of the largest open marketplaces, operating very much like Amazon where third-party sellers could sell their products (mostly illegal drugs to anonymous buyers). Although Silk Road is closed, and its founder is in prison for life, other illegal businesses still thrive on the Dark Web.
How the Dark Web Can Negatively Affect your Business
Cybercrime costs US businesses billions of dollars each year. The majority of information hackers steal from businesses ends up on the Dark Web for sale to identity thieves and corporate spies.
But, the real danger is that it provides a communication and education training ground for hackers and would-be hackers. Although the competition among different hacking groups is fierce, there’s still a willingness among cyber criminals to share techniques and assist one another.
Be Proactive—Protect Your Business.
When a news story is released regarding a large corporate hack, many of my clients contact me to learn how they can better protect their businesses. The advice I provide involves educating their employees about the dangers of online crime, and developing company procedures to prevent it from occurring. A few of the actionable suggestions I suggest include:
- Train new hires on the proper handling of corporate data and procedures to limit data loss, including ways to handle phishing scams. Besides an initial onboarding training session, all employees should attend refresher courses throughout the year. The vast majority of cyber criminals gain access to a company’s network through the mistakes of employees.
- Demand the use of strong passwords and two-factor authorization using a hardware dongle token. It’s advisable that you assign strong passwords to each individual employee to prevent them from using passwords that are easy to guess. A two-factor authorization uses a USB dongle token that a user must insert into the computer to access certain information, even when using the proper username and password.
- Consider installing a segmented network to handle your company’s computing needs. A segmented network helps to prevent successful hacking attempts by creating completely separate networks that are protected by individual firewalls. If a hacker breaches one portion of your network, he won’t have access to all of your data.
- Think about buying hacking insurance and conduct penetration testing. The cost of cybercrime against companies will exceed 6 billion dollars by 2021. That’s a lot of money. Investing in cyber-attack insurance is a good idea for those with a great deal of exposure. Plus, it’s always a good idea to hire an IT Security Firm to conduct a penetration test of your network.