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The Dark Web: What Small Business Owners Need to Know


What is the Dark Web?

The Dark Web is a hidden universe contained within the “Deep Web”- a sublayer of the Internet that is hidden from conventional search engines. Search engines like Google, BING and Yahoo only search .04% of the indexed or “surface” Internet. The other 99.96% of the Web consists of databases, private academic and government networks, and the Dark Web.

The Dark Web is estimated at 550x larger than the surface Web and growing. Because you can operate anonymously, the Dark Web holds a wealth of stolen data and illegal activity.

What's On the Dark Web?

EVERYTHING! Insane things like drugs, illegal weapons, even slave trading. That's the really gross stuff. It's the more mundane items on the Dark Web that can destroy your business... things like usernames and passwords, sensitive information like voter registry lists or client lists of a corporation, or even intellectual property. Yep, your company secrets or the access to them!

How Does the Dark Web Work?

It all comes down to money. Everything is for sale on the Dark Web. One Experian report found that social security numbers can go for less than $5, while a driver’s license costs $20. You could think of all this as the Digital Black Market.

That brings us back to small businesses. For these businesses in particular, the dark web is a cause for concern for three reasons:

  1. Not everyone knows it exists. Part of the problem starts with the fact that organizations simply don’t know there is a black market for the buying and selling of stolen goods. Even worse, some small businesses might not even be aware they’ve been compromised until long after their data has been bought and used by someone else.
  2. Sensitive information is up for grabs. In addition to stealing company-trade secrets, hackers are also looking for data like customer data to resell on the black market. The exposure of information like credit card numbers can put customers at risk of identity theft and lead to repercussions like future lawsuits and loss of consumer trust.
  3. It’s not easy to access -- or search. Even if small business employees know what the dark web is, accessing and navigating the internet’s underbelly is no simple task. Once you've connected to it, you'll find that the dark web is messy and volatile, with websites constantly changing addresses to avoid becoming the victim of widespread malware. For small businesses, trying to manually search the dark web for stolen information can expose them to even greater threats.

Steps You Can Take Right Now

As long as there is a demand for stolen goods on the Dark Web, cyber-criminals will continue launching attacks against small businesses for data that will return a profit on the black market. Luckily, small businesses don’t have to wait for their sensitive information to pop up on the dark web in order to act. From educating employees on good cyber hygiene habits to employing Dark Web monitoring, small businesses can make moves to push back against the threat of the dark web. Here are some essential steps you can take to thwart the Dark Web criminals.

  1. Deploy Dark Web monitoring and response tools.Whenever an organization is breached, there’s a very real possibility the stolen information will find its way on to the black market. Small businesses should utilize Dark Web monitoring tools to alert companies when any user credentials from their firm is detected on the Dark Web.

Our Dark Web monitoring service allows you to monitor and receive timely notifications when that data is discovered on marketplaces, bins and dump sites. This will alert you to breaches you may not even be aware of and shorten disaster recovery-response times to mitigate further damage.

  1. Eliminate vulnerabilities through training and security exercises. A separate survey by KnowBe4 revealed that up to 90% of breaches are caused by human error. Poor employee habits, such as using the same password for multiple accounts, can compromise a small business’s cyber security measures and make it easier for hackers to breach company servers.

Instead, companies should implement regular training and security awareness. That way, they can reinforce security best practices among employees who might not even know how to approach or respond to a threat. 

Free Dark Web Consultation

If you are interested in finding out how many of your employee's usernames and passwords are for sale on the Dark Web, we are happy to perform a free Dark Web scan and share the report with you. We’ll do the research and show you where your company may be exposed. No catches.

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