Denver-based OWL Cybersecurity recently released a report showing that nearly every Fortune 500 company is exposed and has a presence on the the Dark Web. OWL gave each of the companies a darknet intelligence (DARKINT) index rating, stating that “the Index ranking reflects the attractiveness of the target. It is not a “risk of breach”. It is more closely aligned to the attractiveness of the target to a hacker while taking into account the effectiveness of their cyber defenses.”
While OWL isn’t assigning or citing a specific risk-breach, they are exposing the dangers of the dark web — and it isn’t just Fortune 500 companies that should be concerned. Everybody is at risk because of dark dealings in this shrouded corner of the internet, and nobody should take it lightly.
What Exactly Is The Dark Web?
Not to be confused with the deep web, the dark web/darknet is a collection of thousands of websites that you can’t access via normal means and that aren’t indexed by search engines like Google or yahoo. In order to access it, you need to download special anonymization software like Tor.
This software allows the dark web to exist unhindered by a centralized authority, because everything that goes on there is almost completely anonymous. Nevertheless, it functions as the world’s largest black market, where you can find anything ranging from human organs to illicit substances — and worse.
While officials in several countries have dealt blows to the black market dealings of these online marketplaces, it’s hard to tell whether these efforts are working, or whether cutting off the head of the snake only causes two more to replace it. After the Silk Road was busted back in 2013, and with a new ring of busts by US and Dutch authorities on AlphaBay and Hansa in August, it appears that other black market sites are booming, with listings rising as much as 28% over the last week of July.
How Is My Business At Risk?
You might think that since you don’t do that much business, or that you don’t handle very much information, that you’ll probably never have to deal with problems stemming from the dark web — but I’m sure that’s also what the victims of the Amazon-related fraud incident in April thought too. Somehow, Amazon back-end credentials were leaked to the darknet, allowing fraudsters to log in to the accounts of third-party sellers (even ones that had been long-dormant!), change associated bank information to divert funds into their own accounts, and then sell fake items at deeply discounted prices. Nearly hundreds of thousands of dollars were lost before authorities were alerted and the true businesses owners were able to get their accounts back.
Other ways that you might not realize your computer is risk is via the spread of ransomware and other types of malicious code. Ransomware like WannaCry, which spread massively in May, are sold via the darknet. Hacking as a service is now in high demand, and common criminals are able to obtain malicious code on the black market, meaning that the days of high technical literacy as a barrier to entry for committing white collar crime is gone.
In one sense, you must protect yours and your customer’s information from falling into the hands of the dark web. In another sense, you need to be vigilant and prepare for when the tendrils of the dark web come to your business’s doorstep.
How Do I Protect Myself?
You may have heard it before, but it’s hard to overstate: a cyber attack on your business is not a matter of if, but a matter of when. This is out of your control. What is in your control is how you prepare and how you respond. A successful combination of both will see you through even the worst virtual affronts. According to the article “7 Deadly Cybersecurity Sins Small Businesses Should Avoid” published via the Charlotte Business Journal, you should:
- Create backups and have a disaster recovery plan. Ransomware, in particular, relies on encryption to enforce its ransom. The only way around this is a full system restore.
- Educate employees on security protocol. This means you too. Social engineering, phishing, and email blunders are the main reason cybercrime is still so successful.
- Use dual factor authentication and strong passwords. Dual factor authentication ensures there is no single “key to the kingdom,” while strong password protocol is a redundant must.
- Consider cybersecurity insurance. In the event that your best prep doesn’t cut it, cyber-insurance can help you recoup your damages.
This list is by no means extensive, but the important thing to remember is that preparation and response are your responsibility and yours alone. This increasingly digital world will continue to wow and wonder us — but new threats that nobody has dealt with before will continue to rise in turn. Be vigilant, be safe, and protect your business against the dark web.
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