While the term “dark web” might conjure images of a hidden marketplace with a range of mystical and terrifying wares, the reality is a lot less organized. In this article, we’ll explain how a dark web scanning can help to keep track of your sensitive data.
The dark web the part of the web that isn’t indexed by search engines–meaning you won’t be able to find dark web pages using Google. Contrary to popular belief, the dark web isn’t just home to illegal firearms and mysterious boxes full of questionable material. People use it to browse the internet anonymously, and journalists can use it to whistleblow on atrocities in their home country without fear of arrest.
Despite the humanitarian and anonymity benefits that the dark web brings, it has, by and large, earned a reputation for the buying and selling of illegal, sensitive, and morally dubious material. This includes information about your organization and its users such as lists of password breaches. While not everything on the dark web is harmful or legal, it’s not the place you want your business’ information floating around in.
What’s On The Dark Web?
As there is no jurisdiction or restriction on the dark web, pretty much anything goes. As those who use the dark web do so anonymously, it is primarily used to buy illegal and illicit items. Worryingly for businesses and individuals alike, accounts, passwords, and stolen identities are also for sale.
There’s a whole host of items and services that can cause harm to your business that are readily available on the dark web. They include, but are not limited to:
- Attacks for sale, such as ready-made malware, ransomware, DDoS, Botnet, and Trojans
- Phishing tools
- Remote access trojans and exploits
- Intellectual property and classified information
- Company data
- Financial data
- Stolen data in general
- User accounts and passwords, including credentials to user accounts with organizations and companies
The sale and purchase of these items on the dark web can pose a serious threat to your business. Data leaks and breaches from stolen credentials, or attacks that stem from the dark web, can devalue your business by undermining your brand reputation and trust. Disruption from ransomware and DDoS attacks can result in serious downtime for your organization, resulting in the halting of production and severe financial losses. Fraudulent attacks can also lead to your business losing out financially and in terms of reputation.
Information and data tend to end up for sale on the dark web after a smaller data loss or breach. Threat actors can use a variety of tactics (such as Trojans, malware, and phishing attacks) to gain access to your network where they can steal information and sell on the dark web.
In many cases, attackers will target data brokers (sometimes known as information brokers). Data brokers will collect personal information and bundle it, before selling it to third parties for advertising and marketing purposes. These companies are targeted as they have a wealth of valuable company, client, and user information at their fingertips.
With all your company information–including logins and passwords–now available on the dark web, that minor breach you had a few months prior has just become part of a much bigger problem.
So, there’s a lot at stake. Ensuring that your information and data don’t end up on the dark web is an important part of your cybersecurity strategy. Failing that, being able to take quick and effective action, becomes an imperative. If something your business doesn’t want on the dark web end up there, you’ll need to have a dark web scanning solution in place.
What Is Dark Web Scanning?
Dark web scanning is a tool used to scan all open-source information on the dark web quickly, effectively, and diligently. Drawing on both artificial and human intelligence, as well as machine learning, dark web scans will trawl the internet to identify data. They will check out dark web chat rooms, forums, blogs, private networks, illegal item vendor websites, and more.
Dark web scanning tools are highly adept at finding instances of:
- impersonations of company figures or organizations
- identities for sale
- tips or information on how to hack specific companies
- sale of sensitive data and information (including user credentials)
- information on network vulnerabilities
- information of past data breaches
- sale of non-sensitive data – this can be used in attacks like credential stuffing. This is where non-sensitive credentials are used against websites and mobile apps for fraudulent reasons
Configured and used correctly, dark web scanning can alert your admin team as soon as it detects your company information online. This allows your IT teams to respond to any emerging threats, providing a better chance at full remediation.
It’s worth noting that while dark web scanning tools do a good job of finding out if your company’s information is circulating on the dark web, there are some parts of the dark web that tools won’t be able to find and scan. There is no guarantee that your data will be identified, and therefore it is important to have a wider security architecture to defend your organization from threats. It is worth thinking of a dark web scanning tool as an indicator, rather than a comprehensive remediation tool.
How Does It Work?
The name “dark web scanning” gives the game away here–it scans the dark web for anything that could be linked to your company.
Credential information, such as usernames and passwords, are one of the most common pieces of information that end up on the dark web. With this data, attackers can beach accounts and gain access to your networks.
But that’s not all that threat actors are interested in. Financial and banking information (for both companies and individuals), social security numbers, and credit card details, are also shared and sold on the dark web.
Dark web scanners will perform an initial check to see if any information is online, before enacting a rolling scanning policy to identify any new information.
Dark web scanning tools can visit webpages, forums, chatrooms, marketplaces, social media sites, paste sites, messaging applications, IRC channels, and everything else under the dark side of the sun.
While dark web scanning can, in theory, scan pretty much any type of web page on the dark web, it does have its limitations. Completely off the grid, heavily encrypted and private pages that our shrouded from dark web-public view usually remains inaccessible from most monitoring solutions.
Who Should Use A Dark Web Scanner?
If your organization has lots of data, it is worth considering a dark web scanning solution. There are particular sectors whose information is particularly attractive to hackers, and valuable to the dark web. Any financial information that can be used to extort or steal money is, obviously, valuable. Healthcare or insurance records can also be very valuable due to the amount of information all bundled together. In these cases, someone might want to buy data in order to target advertising, rather than stealing money.
In essence, any organization that handles sensitive or personally identifiable information (PII) should consider using a dark web scanner. These sectors will likely have strict governance and face heavy fines if PII is leaked on the dark web.
For a more detailed explanation of who should use a dark web scanner, you can read our article here:
What Is Dark Web Monitoring And Does Your Organization Need It?
What To Look For In A Dark Web Scanning Solution
So, we know what a dark web scanning solution is, and that’s what it does, but how do you pick a good solution?
There are many dark web scanning solutions on the market, with more and more getting added each year – it can be difficult to know what to look for. While it may seem like they all offer the same thing (and by and large, they do), it’s good to keep a few specific attributes in mind when you’re looking for a solution that suits your business.
Real-time Alerts And Extensive Reporting
Your dark web scanning tool may be very efficient in scanning and finding instances of stolen credentials and data, but it needs strong reporting capabilities to match. This ensures you are kept up to date about current threats.
Good dark web scanning tools will allow admins to configure the solutions to provide real-time alerts that can be triggered by specific keywords or phrases. This real-time function ensures that teams are notified as soon as something has been detected on the dark web. It will also identify where this data has been found, so they can act quickly and accordingly.
Reporting features also need to be comprehensive, so that they can provide teams with the exact information they need. From these reports, admin should be able to draw on a vast wealth and range of sources that the scanner provides. Alerts should include the organization’s overall security health and risk score, investigation for alerts, live threat tracking, and the monitoring of specific assets.
The solution chosen should also include a centralized and consolidated dashboard that security teams can use to search the dark web, customize alert triggers, track any alerts, and monitor threats as soon as they are detected. Ideally, this dashboard should be clean and intuitive to navigate, with extensive logging and reporting easily accessible.
Searches should be filtered in granular detail, with users searching and refining searches across a multitude of variables and sources. For large, multinational organizations, finding a solution that offers these capabilities in multiple languages is also a huge bonus.
Navigating the dark web can be risky. It’s the part of the internet that is completely unregulated and filled with threat actors. You’re not as protected on the dark web as you are on the regular web, and there is an increased risk that you will installing something malicious when downloading a file found there.
While there are steps you can take to protect your identity and search the dark web as safely as possible, the safest thing to do is to just not go on it at all.
Of course, this presents some issues when it comes to regularly scan the dark web. As such, the best dark web scanners will automatically scan the dark web, without putting users at risk by requiring them to access the dark web themselves. Chats, marketplaces, forums, messaging apps, and any other darknet sites can all be reported on and accessed remotely.
Artificial Intelligence And Machine Learning
Dark web scanners utilize artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze content and generate alerts on present or developing threats. These tools allow for intelligent and adaptive tracking of threats on the dark web. The solutions will use keywords, phrases, and snippets of data supplied by your security team, in order to find instances of your company information online.
Ideally, a good dark web scanning solution should not only pick up on your organization’s information and data, but the context that it is used in as well. AI and machine learning is then used to generate actionable insights and allowing analysts to investigate these insights.
Indexed Data And Web Page Archives
A few vendors offer extensive databases of everything they’ve found in the dark web linked to your organization. Great dark web monitoring and scanning solutions can provide millions of indexed dark web records, libraries of known harmful sites, and extensive lists of known threat actors who have been associated with indicators of compromise (IOCs), and anything else that might be deemed useful or important. Drawing on the idea of the “usual suspects”, having archived libraries and information can streamline the scanning process as you can identify high risk areas. Places on the dark web which become known for sharing secure information can be scanned before other areas.
Neither the dark web, nor threat actors, sleep. Therefore, neither should your dark web monitoring solution. Good solutions will work around the clock, monitoring deep, dark, and surface web sites and sources constantly, looking for any suspicious activity or breached information and data. As soon as a threat–potential or confirmed–is found, the solution should immediately report a real-time alert to your security terms for immediate response and remediation.
Not every organization needs a dark web scanning solution, but for those that do, keeping the above in mind when searching for viable solutions for your business is a great step in the right direction. Dark web scanning can aid organizations in finding out if their company information is circulating online. If a user is being impersonated or have their identity for sale, a dark web scanner can identify this. They will also look out for instructions and advice on how to hack your organization.
Having a dark web scanning tool in place is great, but the best action to take is making sure that information and credentials don’t end up on the dark web in the first place. Having strict security protocols in place – and ensuring that these tools and systems configured correctly, that software have patches installed when needed, and instilling good security hygiene in your users – ensures that this information never gets to the dark web in the first place.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the best dark web scanning solutions on the market here:
The Top 10 Dark Web Monitoring Solutions