Dark web monitoring: how to defend yourself in 2023

We all deal with a lot of sensitive information online - as individuals, as well as within our work lives. But all of this data, from logins and passwords, our personal and customer details, to financial information, is tempting loot for cybercriminals. What do they do with the valuable data they steal? Often, they sell it on the dark web.

So how can you defend yourself in 2023 and detect if you or your business is a victim of cybercrime?

What is the dark web?

Free to use image sourced from Pixabay

The internet can be divided into three layers. Imagine you Google a question such as “how to get virtual phone number”. Your search scours through the public layer of the internet. This is known as the clear web. The next layer comprises any data that is protected by a password. This is known as the deep web.

Finally, we come to the dark web. Websites found here are not indexed, meaning they cannot be found through a browser search. This is only accessible using the right tools, such as The Onion Router (TOR). TOR is a piece of software that is free and open-sourced. It allows for completely anonymous communications, including web browsing.

A whole range of organizations use the dark web. There are many legitimate reasons they may wish to use secure digital communications. It’s utilized by the military, government departments, and law enforcement. Additionally, activists under oppressive regimes use it to conduct their activities, helping to reduce their risk of detection.

Trading data

The dark web has something of a bad reputation. Anonymity is highly desirable to the criminal element. Crime organizations use the dark web for trade in illegal drugs and weapons. Additionally, and crucially, criminals also trade in data.

Hackers could steal data from your systems to sell on dark web marketplaces. They target data such as personally identifiable information, intellectual property, or login credentials. Other criminals buy that data to conduct yet more crime. They use it to commit fraud, steal identities, or conduct ransomware attacks.

What is dark web monitoring?

One way you can defend yourself is with dark web monitoring. What used to be available only to large organizations is now available to individuals, who can use this process to identify potential data breaches. If you do discover any private data present on the dark web then you’ll know there’s a problem. Should you discover a breach, you’ll know that action needs to be taken!

As a business, it’s vital to find the source of a breach. This will allow you to respond accordingly. The source of a breach could be internal, in which case the bad actor could be an employee. The consequences of this might be to review hiring practices. It would certainly mean dismissal of the offender and potentially the involvement of law enforcement.

If it’s external, then a review of cybersecurity threats is called for. Your cybersecurity team will have some tough questions to answer. It may lead to increased investment in security measures. This is a price worth paying to avoid the damage that can result from a data breach. That damage may be financial, reputational, or both.

Free to use image sourced from Pixabay

How to implement dark web monitoring

Few businesses - and certainly beyond the means of individuals - have the resources to manually trawl through the dark web to see if their data is there.

A practical way for you to monitor the dark web is by using dark web monitoring. Think of these as task management software for cybersleuths. They’re able to search the dark web for any of your sensitive information. What’s more, they can be set up to constantly monitor the dark web. They will alert you if any of your data were to appear, allowing your business to respond quickly.

Dark web monitoring should take account of known cybercriminal forums. Look out for mentions of your organization, personnel, or software you use. These could be signs of an attack in the planning stages. Advanced notice of this activity gives your cyber security team the ability to prevent a breach from occurring.

Prevention is better than cure

It is better to reduce your risks before falling victim to dark web cybercriminals. The following tips will help you beef up security.

  • Use strong passwords and change them regularly
  • Use safe email best practice (e.g. don’t open attachments from unknown senders)
  • Understand who has access to data and put controls in place
  • Avoid accessing unsecured websites
  • Employ robust security measures around physical IT infrastructure (e.g. servers)

With a few key practices in place as part of a wider dark web monitoring strategy, you can safely defend your business from online security threats.

About the author

Jenna Bunnell - Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Dialpad

Jenna Bunnell is the Senior Manager for Content Marketing at Dialpad, an AI-incorporated cloud-hosted unified communications system that provides phone services for small businesses and sales representatives. Jenna has written numerous articles for various domains including Codemotion and Cybersecurity Insiders. Check out her LinkedIn profile.