Dark Web Monitoring: Your Essential Guide

While Google might seem to be infinite, in reality, what search engines see only represents around 4% of the web, while the remaining 96% remains non-indexed. This non-indexed section of the web is referred to as the deep web, while an even smaller section of the deep web is the dark web or darknet. A lot of non-indexed sites on the deep and dark web are legitimate pages that don’t show up on search engines for different reasons. However, the dark web still attracts all kinds of malicious actors as they covertly communicate and trade, and look to exploit sensitive information, which is why organizations of all types and sizes are increasingly turning to dark web monitoring to protect their sensitive data. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of dark web monitoring and provide an overview of how it works. We’ll also look at some tools and strategies used to monitor activity and potential threats and share some tips on choosing the best dark web monitoring solution for your organization.

What is dark web monitoring?

Dark web monitoring is the process of searching or investigating the dark web to detect illegal activity and potential security threats that pose a risk to a company or individual. This process is an essential part of protecting organizations from emerging external threats that could cause damage, such as fraud, identity theft, or a cyber attack so that companies can take steps to respond and protest themselves ahead of an attack. Dark web monitoring involves scanning the dark web for data such as stolen login details, sensitive company information, CVEs, 0 days, or financial data. 

The importance of dark web monitoring

There are many reasons organizations monitor the dark web. A business might want to protect its customers from cybercrime, while a government agency might want to detect a sensitive information leak. It’s not always organizations themselves monitoring for threats, but outsourced solutions such as a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) are constantly scanning both the open, deep, and dark web to gather data on potential vulnerabilities for their customers. 

Before we take a closer look at specific threats, understanding the consequences will help you appreciate the importance of dark web monitoring, such as:

  • Loss of revenue: According to IBM’s last Cost of a Data Breach report, the financial fallout of a data breach can cost an organization an average of $4.35 million. This can come as a result of the cost of repairing the damage as well as the cost of lost customers and brand reputation.
  • Legal and compliance penalties: Depending on the nature of the data that was breached, organizations can be subject to legal action from regulatory bodies including fines for non-compliance. 
  • Reputational damage: It’s challenging to measure losses related to reputational damage since they can come from so many different angles, but the loss of trust can lead to losing customers and also create difficulty in gaining new clients or partners.
  • Loss of productivity: In addition to any financial costs, when a breach or attack occurs, it’s all hands on deck to help put out the fire, meaning production or development take a backseat, such as when Toyota fell victim to cyber-attacks and had to halt production.
  • Increase in spending: In order to prevent a future breach or attack, organizations would need to bolster their security by hiring additional staff, investing in new technologies, or working with specialized monitoring companies.

With the severity of these consequences, it’s essential to constantly scan the dark web for data related to your organization and industry to remain up-to-date on malicious activity, such as your data being shared or sold. Scanning the dark web for your organization’s data or data from your staff, customers, or third parties as well as general trends in security vulnerabilities in your industry allows you to take proactive steps to protect your systems, business, and assets from threats or create strategies to handle breaches.

5 types of threats detected by dark web monitoring

As a layer of the internet that’s not indexed, the dark web is home to illicit and illegal activities, posing a threat to businesses, organizations, and government agencies. To better understand the dangers that lurk on the dark web, here’s a look at some of the main threats organizations face:

1. Data breaches

When an unauthorized user gains access to an organization’s system, they can steal or manipulate private information. On the dark web, hackers will buy and sell this data in order to attack an organization, steal identities, or launch a DDoS attack like pro-Russian hackers, Killnet did on Romanian government websites. Dark web monitoring can help detect the early stages of a data breach, affording organizations enough time to respond.

2. Sensitive data leaks

When confidential data is exposed to the public, it can be very damaging to an organization’s reputation and can even result in legal trouble. When the organization is a government agency, the ramifications could be potentially life-threatening. For example, when Wikileaks published sensitive government documents, it was considered a threat to national and diplomatic security. Organizations can detect these vulnerabilities and respond to data leaks quickly through dark web monitoring in order to reduce the risk of private data falling into the wrong hands.

3. Malware and phishing

Both malware attacks and phishing are attempts by a bad actor to gain access to confidential information. Malware is used to steal sensitive data or disrupt operations, while phishing attacks often take a more discreet approach by sending emails or texts that appear legitimate to steal information. In both cases, financial and operational consequences can be severe.

4. Brand abuse and reputation damage

Hackers can use the dark web to launch attacks on an organization’s reputation by spreading false information or creating fake accounts. With the help of dark web monitoring, organizations can look for threats against their brand before any damage occurs.

5. Insider threats and geopolitical risks

In some cases, an organization’s employee might share sensitive data on the dark web for personal gain or other reasons, as is suspected with the Yandex leak. In government entities, this type of internal threat can lead to geopolitical risk where a foreign agent or government targets another with cyberattacks. While often tricky to detect, by consistently monitoring the dark web, organizations can mitigate these serious risks.

Dark Web monitoring 2

Tools and services for dark web monitoring

With threats coming from different directions, organizations need multiple tools to keep tabs on what’s shared on the dark web. Some of these tools include:

  • Threat intelligence platforms: Threat intelligence platforms are software tools that help companies collect critical data from different sources, analyze it if needed, and take action to prevent or mitigate threats. 
  • Data analytics solutions: Using machine learning, AI, or other technologies, analytics tools can identify patterns in dark web data to detect malicious activity faster and more accurately.
  • Threat intelligence feeds: Threat intelligence feeds such as VirusTotal or BitDefender provide up-to-date information on malicious activity including information on downloaded files, domains, and IP addresses. They’re often provided by a third-party data provider and help organizations detect and mitigate emerging threats.  
  • Security and vulnerability databases: Databases, such as the National Vulnerability Database (NVD) and Common Vulnerabilities and Exposure (CVE), are collections of information about potential threats and security risks that organizations can access in order to help identify vulnerabilities.
  • Cyber knowledge bases: Knowledge bases can educate organizations on the latest security threats and help them identify the signs of a potential threat. Some popular cyber knowledge bases include MITRE ATT&CK® and Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP).
  • Professional services and support: For companies who don’t have the resources or infrastructure to monitor the dark web on their own, turning to professionals like webz.io can help outsource the monitoring while also providing ongoing support and guidance.

How to monitor threats from the dark web

Monitoring the dark web isn’t a simple task. Not only do you need specific tools to access hidden or restricted areas, but pages on the dark web are constantly in flux and get taken up or go back live without warning. This is what happened when Dread disappeared from the darknet in 2022, much to the shock of its administrators and users, only to reappear a few months later

Monitoring these types of pages is not only laborious but can also be expensive. Companies need to assess whether or not they have the budget and technology to create their own in-house monitoring solution, which requires powerful algorithms and a steady stream of data, or turn to a dark web monitoring platform. 

Choosing the right dark web monitoring tool

There isn’t just one way to monitor the dark web. Some solutions will focus on one type of tool, while others will use a mix of multiple methods to bring you the most accurate results. How a solution combats the dark web is another aspect to consider when selecting a monitoring service or solution. Some ways to monitor the dark web include:

  • Data feeds: Organizations working with their own in-house dark web monitoring tools need as much data as possible to ensure nothing gets missed. Companies like Webz.io offer a dark web data API that provides a reliable stream of regularly updated structured dark web data. When choosing the right data feed you will have two considerations to take into account:
  • Coverage: The solution you choose should cover dark and deep content from forums, marketplaces, messaging platforms, and other types of sites, even when password-protected. The best solution will crawl multiple sources in different languages on a daily basis.
  • Noise-free data: When it comes to sensitive information, timeliness and accuracy are everything. The data you receive from a monitoring solution shouldn’t include any false positives or distract you with disorganized information. The most critical information should be front and center so that your response to a threat is well-informed.
  • Tracking platforms: Tracking platforms can help analysts quickly and simply track, analyze, and gather actionable insights on emerging threats that may harm their organization.
  • Reports: Companies seeking detailed reports that analyze and summarize potential threats or trends on industry vulnerabilities can use this data to create strategies or processes to mitigate risks.

Protect your business with dark web monitoring

There’s no denying the benefits of dark and deep web monitoring for your organization as a way to ensure the safety of your assets, including sensitive data and information. Dark web monitoring can help you preempt potential attacks before they become active threats, or help you manage compromised assets in the event of an attack or data breach. All this helps you protect your organization and others by ensuring a potential risk doesn’t jeopardize its entire future while also helping you build and maintain trust with your clients, which, once lost, is difficult to win back.

If you’re looking for new dark web monitoring solutions, talk to an expert at webz.io. We can help provide you with high-quality dark web data feeds to inform your monitoring solution or help your analysts monitor the dark web.

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