What Is Dark Web Monitoring? Why Is Dark Web Monitoring Important?

The internet isn’t as simple as it seems on the surface. It has many layers — the surface web, the deep web and the dark web. The surface web consists of only 4% of the content available on the internet while the deep web accounts for 90% and the dark web makes up 6%. Of these, the dark web is infamous for criminal activities, from buying illegal substances to hiring a hitman and everything in between.

The dark web represents a segment of the internet accessible only through specialized software, such as The Onion Router (Tor), enabling users to conceal their identity and navigate anonymously. That’s why the dark web is a haven for all sorts of illegal activities, including buying and selling sensitive data, such as personal information and login credentials. Threat actors can use the information available on the dark web to compromise or leak an organization’s confidential data or launch cyberattacks.

Read on to discover how you would know if your company’s information is on the dark web and how to protect your organization against identity theft and cyberthreats.

What is dark web monitoring?

Dark web monitoring involves the surveillance and analysis of the dark web’s hidden corners to detect instances of compromised or leaked personal information. It involves constantly examining underground forums, marketplaces and encrypted channels where cybercriminals operate. This proactive approach aims to identify stolen credentials, financial data or sensitive personal details before cybercriminals misuse them.

In 2023, the dark web had over 2.5 million daily users, and more than half of those visitors were involved in illegal activities. In today’s digital age, where information is both currency and vulnerability, dark web monitoring emerges as a crucial safeguard against the clandestine activities occurring on the dark web. Dark web monitoring services use advanced technologies and algorithms to scan the hidden layers of the internet in real-time, providing individuals and organizations with early warnings and alerts about potential threats.

Why is dark web monitoring important?

Dark web monitoring serves as a defense mechanism against the looming threat of identity theft for organizations. This proactive cybersecurity practice plays a pivotal role in safeguarding organizations against malicious activities unfolding in the depths of the darknet.

Key reasons why dark web monitoring has become increasingly vital include:

Credential monitoring

For businesses navigating the digital landscape, the threat of identity theft looms large. Dark web monitoring acts as a vigilant guardian, constantly scanning underground forums and encrypted channels for signs of compromised credentials. By proactively identifying leaked usernames, passwords or personal details, organizations can swiftly take action to secure their accounts, thwarting potential cyberthreats before they escalate.

Early detection

The risk of data breaches is ever-present for organizations since they collect and store large volumes of sensitive data. For them, the early detection of data breaches is vital. By continuously monitoring the dark web for signs of breached corporate information, businesses can swiftly respond to mitigate potential damages, protect customer trust and uphold regulatory compliance.

Reduced risk

The real-time nature of dark web monitoring allows for proactive threat mitigation. When compromised data is identified, businesses can take swift measures to address vulnerabilities and prevent cybercriminals from exploiting the information. This proactive approach reduces the timeframe for potential attackers, minimizing the risk of unauthorized access or fraudulent activities.

Enhanced security measures

Dark web monitoring empowers businesses to bolster their security measures by proactively addressing vulnerabilities and potential threats before they turn into a catastrophe. Remaining vigilant on the dark web enables organizations to stay ahead of potential cyberthreats and data breaches.

Brand and reputation protection

In today’s competitive business landscape, a company’s reputation is often its most valuable asset. Dark web monitoring helps protect your company’s image by detecting any unauthorized use or exposure of your corporate data on the dark web. Timely identification of such instances allows you to respond promptly, preserving your brand integrity and shielding your organization from reputational harm that could otherwise have lasting consequences.

Compliance and regulatory adherence

Many industries and regions have specific regulations governing the protection of sensitive data. Dark web monitoring aids organizations in adhering to compliance requirements by identifying and addressing potential breaches promptly. This reduces the risk of legal consequences, financial penalties and reputational damage associated with non-compliance.

Dark web monitoring has become critical for businesses with an online presence because of its ability to provide a preemptive shield against the ever-evolving threats that lurk in the shadows of the digital realm. By staying one step ahead, organizations can navigate the cyber landscape with greater confidence, knowing that their sensitive information is under the watchful eye of this essential cybersecurity practice.

A blue icon of a detective hat and glasses.

How does personal information get leaked on the dark web?

Your organization’s sensitive information is a treasure trove for cybercriminals looking to make a fast buck by selling it to other malicious actors on the dark web. Despite taking all precautions, sensitive information can get leaked on the dark web in several ways.

Various factors contribute to the vulnerability of data, and understanding these common causes is crucial for implementing effective safeguards. Listed below are some of the common ways through which data is leaked on the dark web:

Data breaches and hacks

The global average data breach cost was $4.45 million in 2023, indicating a 15% increase over three years. Data breaches and hacks are among the most prominent causes of data loss, affecting businesses, government entities and individuals worldwide. Cybercriminals exploit vulnerabilities in software, systems or networks to gain unauthorized access, leading to the compromise of sensitive information. These breaches often result in the theft of personal and financial data, which can have severe consequences for organizations.

Darknet marketplaces

Cybercriminals frequent darknet marketplaces to monetize sensitive information acquired through various means, such as data breaches or hacking. Buyers on these platforms may use the acquired data for identity theft, financial fraud or other malicious purposes, exacerbating the risk of data loss.

Social engineering and phishing

Social engineering tactics manipulate human psychology to exploit trust and gather valuable data. Phishing is a common social engineering technique involving deceiving individuals into disclosing vital information, such as usernames, passwords or financial details, by posing as a trustworthy entity.

Email continues to be the preferred tactic for cybercriminals to launch attacks. Whether through deceptive emails, fake websites or fraudulent messages, phishing attacks remain a prevalent threat for businesses today.

Malware and keyloggers

Malicious software, or malware, is designed to infiltrate and compromise systems, leading to unauthorized access and data theft. According to the Voice of SecOps report 2023, over 60% of cybersecurity professionals surveyed said their executive leadership’s biggest concern is ransomware, a type of malware.

Keyloggers, a specific type of malware, record keystrokes and capture sensitive information like login credentials. Malware can infect computers through infected websites, email attachments or malicious downloads, emphasizing the need for robust cybersecurity solutions to protect against these insidious threats.

Insider threats

According to the 2023 Insider Threat Report, more than 50% of respondents revealed their organizations had suffered an insider threat in the last year. Insider threat incidents occur when employees or individuals associated with an organization intentionally or unintentionally compromise data security. Anyone (employees, contractors or business partners) with access to sensitive information may misuse their privileges, either due to negligence or malicious intent. Enforcing stringent access controls, overseeing employee activities and cultivating a cybersecurity-aware culture can aid in mitigating the risks linked with insider threats.

Unsecured Wi-Fi networks

Public Wi-Fi networks, often convenient but inherently insecure, pose a significant risk to data security. Cybercriminals can exploit unsecured Wi-Fi connections to intercept data transmitted between devices and networks. Users who connect to unsecured networks are vulnerable to various attacks, including man-in-the-middle attacks. Employing virtual private networks (VPNs) and avoiding unsecured networks for sensitive transactions are essential steps to safeguard data against such risks.

What to look for in a dark web monitoring solution?

With cyberthreats becoming increasingly sophisticated, businesses are turning to dark web monitoring solutions to safeguard sensitive data. Selecting the right dark web monitoring solution is crucial for proactively identifying potential risks and protecting against data breaches. Here are key considerations when evaluating dark web monitoring solutions for your business:

Comprehensive coverage

A robust dark web monitoring solution should provide comprehensive coverage across various darknet marketplaces, forums and underground channels where cybercriminals trade stolen data. It should continuously scan these sources for mentions of your organization, employee credentials or sensitive information to ensure early detection of potential threats.

Real-time alerts

A timely response is critical when dealing with cybersecurity incidents. Look for a dark web monitoring solution that offers real-time alerts, notifying you promptly when your data or credentials are identified in illicit online activities. This enables swift action to mitigate potential risks and minimize the impact of a data breach.

Customization and scalability

Different organizations have unique monitoring needs based on the nature of their business, industry and size. Opt for a flexible dark web monitoring solution that allows you to customize the monitoring parameters to your organization’s requirements. Additionally, it should be scalable to adapt to the evolving nature of cyberthreats and the expanding scope of your organization’s digital footprint.

Advanced analytics and threat intelligence

A cutting-edge dark web monitoring solution should leverage advanced analytics and threat intelligence capabilities. Such solutions can provide valuable insights into potential risks by analyzing patterns, trends and emerging threats on the dark web. This proactive approach will empower your business to stay ahead of impending threats.

Integration with the security ecosystem

Seamless integration with your existing security infrastructure is essential for effective threat management. An advanced dark web monitoring solution should easily integrate with other cybersecurity tools and platforms, enhancing your organization’s overall security posture. This integration enables a cohesive response to potential threats across various fronts.

Compliance and reporting features

For organizations in regulated industries, such as banking, government and healthcare, compliance with data protection standards is paramount. A reliable dark web monitoring solution should offer robust reporting features to facilitate compliance audits. This includes documentation of monitoring activities, alerts and responses, ensuring your organization meets regulatory requirements.

How can Spanning help you with dark web monitoring

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, the importance of dark web monitoring cannot be overstated. Spanning dark web monitoring for Microsoft 365 protects your organization’s sensitive information against cybertheft and fraud. It alerts administrators of compromised or stolen employee credentials, enabling them to take proactive steps to secure those accounts before malicious activity occurs. They can then leverage Spanning’s audit reporting and search capabilities to determine if data loss has taken place and restore corrupted data in just a few clicks. The service is pre-configured and provides intuitive administrator controls.

Spanning dark web monitoring reduces the risk of account takeover attacks, protects your business from potential financial and competitive impacts, and minimizes the chance of a significant data loss incident that would require a costly, resource-intensive recovery and restoration effort.

Our solution also reduces the risk of business email compromise attacks. It secures access to all the user’s Microsoft 365 applications and services, including document stores like Microsoft Outlook, OneDrive and SharePoint, and collaboration services like Microsoft Teams.

Request a demo today to discover how Spanning dark web monitoring helps detect and mitigate potential threats before they cause any damage.

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