Should I Be Concerned About the Dark Web?

When it comes to the cyber security of your network, understanding where risks lie becomes necessary to keep your data and your customers’ data protected.  The World Wide Web consists of three parts:

  1. The Surface Web. The surface web is the part of the internet that can be accessed anytime and anywhere with an internet connection and a regular browser.
  2. The Deep Web. The deep web refers to the part of the internet that rests below the surface and accounts for approximately 90% of all websites which includes internal corporate intranet pages. Deep web requires login credentials and a website’s exact URL. 
  3. The Dark Web. The dark web, also known as the dark net, is the unregulated part of the internet. It’s not indexed by search engines and is only accessible through specialized browsers and an exact URL. The URLs of dark websites change regularly, so they are easy to find as URLs found on the surface web.

Why Does the Dark Web Exist?

The U.S. government built the dark web to allow spies to anonymously exchange information. U.S. military researchers developed the Tor (The Onion Router Project) in the mid-1990s as a service. Later on, the framework was repurposed and released for public use in the form of an open-source browser.

The Dark Web Today

According to recent data, there are 2.5 million daily active users on the dark web. The dark web is a bit more of a gray area in the cyber security world as it’s purpose is both good and bad. So, the dark web is a double-edged sword. Three main reasons for using the dark web are:

Anonymity and Privacy

People who use the dark web are generally using it to engage in activity that needs to be invisible from the public eye. For example, in restrictive countries, the dark versions of common websites are sometimes used to minimize the risk of falling victim to cybercrimes. These websites are not accessible to everyone and are often used by people whose cyber security is compromised or who are being cyberstalked by a third party. Anonymity and privacy are also critical requirements for lawful activities such as online surveillance, secure file transfers, and secret email communications which law enforcement agencies use.

Hidden Services

Hidden services on the dark web are available to the general public. Examples include whistleblowing websites and forums and chat boards. These platforms are used by journalists or insiders that allow members to share sensitive information without the risk of retaliation. However, most hidden services contain illicit material.

Illegal Activities

The dark web is also a favorite tool for carrying out illegal activities such as buying or selling black market items such as weapons or drugs, engaging in malicious file transfers, sending ransom emails, providing stolen contact information, and more. Dark web users who engage in unlawful activities can take advantage of the online anonymity available on this part of the web.

Do I Need to Worry?

As our reliance on the internet grows, the threats associated with the digital world also increase. The dark web is increasingly becoming the home to unlawful information and activities. According to a report by Crystal Blockchain, between 2017 and 2020, user activity increased by 300% on the dark web. Most of the activity involved transactions of stolen login credentials and credit card numbers from weak cyber security networks. According to another study, 24.6 billion usernames and passwords are circulating on the dark web, indicating a 65% increase since the last recorded data in 2020.

These statistics provided insight into how threatening the dark web landscape can be. Still, the silver lining here is: if you have a strong security foundation designed to protect your network and critical data, you don’t need to worry. 

Keep Data Off the Dark Web

Steps you can take to secure your network, so your critical data doesn’t end up on the dark web.

  • Patch Updates. Cyber criminals exploit systems that don’t have known patch updates installed. These vulnerable systems provide the main entry point for the spread of malware. Therefore, you need to install the latest software updates on your network system. This makes it difficult for dark web hackers to access your network. However, delaying updates could result in a severe breach.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). The main advantage of using MFA is that it makes it difficult for cybercriminals to use stolen credentials bought or acquired on the dark web. Adding another layer of authentication, such as a biometric or SMS code and a simple username/password pair, provides additional security. MFA allows the system to offer enhanced cyber security protection making your system inaccessible to someone who shouldn’t be there.
  • 24/7 Security Monitoring. Continuous monitoring is critical for network and data security, especially for small and medium-sized organizations. The constant supervision provides proactive solutions for any attempted cyber attack on the system. It helps avoid data breaches and network attacks. For small businesses who don’t have full-time staff available for 24/7 monitoring, you should partner with a managed IT service provider.
  • Regular Security Training. Training employees to be aware could significantly reduce the risk of an attack. Human error is one of the leading causes of a security breach. Still, the more knowledgeable employees are about how to identify an attempt, the faster they can react to stop it. Adequate security awareness and training are important for network and data protection in the digital world. Regular digital security awareness programs help small businesses reduce the chances of becoming a target of the dark web.

The dark web isn’t necessarily a dangerous place. The illegal and criminal activity that takes place there gives it a negative vibe. However, it’s not a place you want to visit if you don’t know what you’re doing. And it’s not a place where your data should be.

Small businesses that don’t take the necessary action to improve cyber security and close gaps are often at risk of a breach. To stay safe, small businesses should secure their network and work with managed IT service providers to monitor the dark web for any data breaches. Larger organizations should invest in commercial network security solutions.

Take precautions and necessary measures to make sure your data stays safe. Regular updates, security training, 24/7 monitoring, and MFAs will keep your network protected.

Visual Edge IT, Inc. (VEIT) specializes in managed IT services and security, cloud computing, and print/copy solutions for businesses across the U.S. including remote office locations. We offer a full line of office technology and services including 24/7 remote monitoring and administration of networks, service desk, and data backup and restore to improve business processes across a variety of industries. Plus, Visual Edge IT™ represents the industry’s leading manufacturers of office technology allowing businesses to get equipment, supplies and service from a single source. Backed by more than 20-years of technology service and a national network of expert engineers, VEIT is uniquely positioned to support business technology needs. The company is headquartered in North Canton, OH, USA. Request your no-obligation assessment today and get a free dark web analysis.