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Dark Web Scans: What Are They & How Can They Protect Your Organization?

Every day, thousands of organizations around the world fall victim to cyber attacks. There are a huge variety of different types of attack, but many of the most common attack vectors seek to expose account details, passwords, and sensitive data. 

Once that data has been stolen from an organization, there’s a pretty good chance it ends up circulating the dark web, for sale to the highest bidder. 

Clearly, this kind of situation represents a nightmare for businesses and cybersecurity professionals. That’s where dark web scans for businesses come in. They enable businesses to scan the dark web for any signs of a breach: the company’s IP address, a list of email addresses, or corporate credit card numbers. 

Once they become aware that sensitive organizational data is circulating on the dark web, businesses can work with cybersecurity professionals and Managed Cybersecurity Service Providers to contain the data breach. Once that’s done, they can also take steps to remedy the underlying issues that led to the breach in the first place, ensuring that the organization is well-protected from future attacks.  

What is the Dark Web? 

The dark web is a murky sub layer of the internet that’s largely hidden from regular internet users. Accessing it requires special software, configurations, and authorizations. 

The dark web is primarily used by people looking to mask their identity. There are some legitimate uses for the dark web––whistleblowers would be one example––but studies have found that much of the activity on the dark web is illicit.

Cyber attacks are common on the dark web, so unless you’re an experienced cybersecurity professional, you definitely should not try to access it. Instead, take every precaution you can to keep your organization’s data off the dark web, and work with IT consultants to run regular dark web scans to ensure your organization isn’t the victim of a breach.

What Is a Dark Web Scan for Business and How Does It Work?

Dark web scans essentially search the dark web for any information related to your business. A typical dark web scan will look for information like email addresses, IP addresses, or other identifiable business information that may exist on dark web sites. 

Dark web scanning technology uses software to access the dark web, and then automatically scans chat rooms, forums, blogs, and other dark web platforms for any data that may have been stolen from your business. 

Dark web scanning tools tend to operate on a continuous basis, meaning that if your business suffers a breach, there’s a chance you’ll discover it on the dark web first, rather than through your internal cybersecurity systems. Once you know how your systems have been breached, your cybersecurity team or partner can take steps to contain the attack and address the root cause of the breach. 

What Kind of Company Information is on the Dark Web?

Exactly what company information is on the dark web will depend on what areas of your networks an attacker has breached. Here are a couple of the most common to look out for:

Employee Personal Information

One of the most common kinds of data that can be found on the dark web is the personal information of your employees. This information might include:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Job Title
  • Address
  • Contact Information

Alone, the presence of this information does not necessarily mean that your business has suffered a breach. Much of this organization information is available through public sources, such as LinkedIn profiles or email marketing databases. 

However, the presence of this information on the dark web could indicate that your organization is more likely to be targeted by phishing or social engineering attacks. Another possibility is that bad actors will use this information to guess your employee’s passwords, which is why it’s important to ensure you have secure cybersecurity password management features in place.

Make sure your employees have recently gone through security awareness training and know how to spot the signs of these types of attack.

Account Credentials

If a hacker has carried out a successful attack on your organization’s network, there’s a good chance that they’ll have accessed the account credentials of some, or even all, of your employees. These credentials include the usernames, passwords, and other details that your employees use to access various internal systems within your organization. They may also include usernames and passwords for online banking or other financial services. 

If a dark web scan discovers any account credentials for your organization on the dark web, it’s important to act quickly. Here’s a few steps you should take:

  • Identify the affected accounts and limit their access to all systems
  • Mandate your employees to change their passwords to new, more secure passwords
  • Make sure your organization is using multi-factor authentication
  • Perform a scan of all affected systems to ensure that attackers have not installed malware
  • Closely monitor access to your business systems, and review access levels to ensure that only employees who truly need it have access to important systems.
  • Consider running a vulnerability assessment on your IT infrastructure to identify and address any other vulnerabilities attackers may exploit

By taking these steps, cybersecurity professionals can contain the impact of cyber attacks by shutting down potential routes for attackers to spread deeper into the organization. These actions also help organizations to minimize their exposure to any future attacks. 

How Does This Information End Up on the Dark Web?

There are a number of ways that proprietary company information can end up on the dark web, but most often, a successful attack by hackers is the cause. These hacks can take many forms: it could be that one of your employees has unwittingly fallen for a phishing scam, or that malware has been installed on a company device. 

The hacker might not even have accessed your systems. It’s possible that your information could have been hacked from a third party, like a supplier, customer, or strategic partner. Many hackers also target data brokers, which hold a vast amount of personal data. 

It’s important to understand the root cause of how your information has ended up on the dark web, but it’s equally important that you respond as soon as you become aware of the presence of your information on the dark web. Hackers will often sell off information to the highest bidder, and once it’s in their hands, another attack is highly likely. Before this happens, ensure you take steps to manage your vulnerabilities to likely attack vectors. 

What Do Dark Web Scanners Look For?

The majority of dark web scanners search for the presence of employee data, access credentials, and other data relating to your business. These scanners typically use a combination of artificial and human intelligence, and will scan a huge variety of dark web sites, searching for any data related to your business in larger bodies of stolen data. 

While the scanning is continuous, and does cover a lot of detail, it’s important to note that dark web scanners are not entirely foolproof. Some stolen data is traded through more private channels that dark web scanners cannot access. That’s why it’s so important to invest in strengthening cybersecurity protocols throughout your organization. 

The Value of Dark Web Scanning

Dark web scanning should be a part of any comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. Much like cybersecurity measures such as continuous monitoring and vulnerability scanning, dark web scanning can help you become aware of potential issues before they snowball and become a major problem for your organization.

By learning about potential data breaches as early as possible, cybersecurity professionals can get a head start on potential attackers, and can implement actions to safeguard their firm against possible attack vectors. Threat intelligence plays an important role in this process, and should be adopted in partnership with dark web scanning. 

Businesses of any size are vulnerable to data breaches. While it’s the large-scale hacks that hit the headlines, the reality is that many small and medium sized enterprises are more vulnerable to attacks. These smaller organizations tend to lack the resources to build and maintain a strong cybersecurity posture, and as a result, have less robust defenses against attackers. 

But by investing in technologies like dark web scanning, business leaders can rest easier at night knowing that technology is constantly standing guard and watching for any signs of a potential attack. 

Partner with Tech Heads to Strengthen your Cybersecurity Posture

The team at Tech Heads stands ready to help you safeguard your business, address the threat of cyber attacks, and manage your response to any adverse security events. 

With more than 25 years of experience helping the Pacific Northwest’s top companies manage their cybersecurity infrastructure, and a bench of 26 cybersecurity experts with various specialties, Tech Heads can help you turn IT from your organizations greatest vulnerability into one of it’s greatest strengths.  

To learn more about working with Tech Heads, schedule a call with our team today