There’s a lesser-known “dark side” of the internet, known as the Dark Web — a place where most cybercrime and other criminal activities originate. Users of the Dark Web encrypt their online activities to remain anonymous, making it difficult to discover their identities and stop their efforts to wreak havoc on businesses and unsuspecting individuals.
What is the Dark Web? How can it impact your business? Let’s take a look.
The Dark Web Explained
The Dark Web serves as a virtual marketplace for cybercriminals — a place where they can sell and purchase black market materials and data — and is typically hidden from conventional search engines. While there are some sites on the Dark Web that abstain from criminal activities, most use it as a place to conduct truly nefarious activities, such as the purchase of weapons, illegal drugs, illicit materials or even human trafficking.
It’s also where illegally obtained consumer data can be purchased, including Social Security numbers, bank account information, health records, passports, credit card numbers and more — everything needed to commit fraud and steal someone’s identity. Dealing in stolen data is a lucrative business, with many sellers making tens of thousands of dollars from interested buyers.
Why Small Businesses Should Be Concerned with the Dark Web
You might wonder where all that stolen data comes from. It’s easy to assume the storehouses of the Dark Web are filled with data obtained from some of the major security breaches in recent history. According to privacy specialists at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), however, the information that can be purchased on the Dark Web is 20 times more likely to come from data breaches that don’t make the headlines. In other words, from small businesses.
According to a Better Business Bureau (BBB) report, more than one out of five businesses said they were the target of a cyberattack. Such an attack could result in an entire organization’s data being exposed, sometimes without the company ever knowing. This could include sensitive customer and employee information, trade secrets, financial data, login and password information and more.
Criminals can also use stolen information to infiltrate a company’s networks to launch a cyberattack that installs malware or ransomware on its systems. Once hackers gain access, they can hold your systems hostage and demand payment in exchange for restoring them. Once a payment is made, there’s no guarantee they’ll follow through on their promises.
How Businesses Can Diminish the Power of the Dark Web
Small businesses play a major role in minimizing the amount of stolen data made available on the Dark Web. They can make a difference by implementing security measures and educating employees about proper protocols.
The BBB report noted that the most common way hackers access a company’s networks is through email, with 90% of successful data breaches stemming from employees who are deceived by phishing attacks. This stresses the importance of companies educating employees about what clues to look for to avoid phishing scams.
Additionally, many employees fail to update usernames and passwords and often use the same password for multiple applications and services. In fact, nearly 40% of people in the U.S. use the same or similar passwords for multiple online services. Doing so potentially increases the severity of a breach because it could give hackers access to entire systems and several platforms.
There are many other signs your business may be at risk of a security breach, so be sure to check out the Cybersecurity Tips for Employees infographic at the end of this article. But even when armed with the right information, many businesses struggle to address the risks because they don’t have an IT department or staff person who has the expertise or can dedicate the necessary time.
Every business, no matter its size, needs a strategic data security plan. A Managed IT service can help you develop an IT roadmap, empower your employees to take control and help ensure your company’s data won’t go over to the “dark” side. Reach out to the IT experts at the Gordon Flesch Company today.