Understanding what the dark web is and how it could be a danger to your small business is the first step towards avoiding this particular cyber threat.

The Internet can be a scary place. Between phishing, malware, and a seemingly never-ending list of scams, the dangers are many. But there’s an even a darker corner of the web where few people dare to venture that can have a wide-reaching and severely damaging effect on your business: the dark web.

The dark web is a small part of the much larger “deep web” – the common name for an extensive collection of websites that aren’t accessible through normal Internet browsers. These websites are hidden from the everyday Internet — or Clearnet — users through the use of overlay networks. They’re built on the framework of networks that already exist, and there are a lot of them. In fact, the Deep Web makes up the majority of the information online. Which, when you consider how vast the corner of the Internet you frequent is, is nothing short of terrifying.

This unseen part of the Internet is a perfect place for less than scrupulous individuals to connect, network, and share tools, tips, and information. And it should go without saying that whatever their up to on these sites is nothing good.

Personal information such as school and medical records, bank statements, and private emails are all part of the immense Deep Web. To gain access to this information, you must be able to access an overlay network using specialized software and passwords. This is a good thing, because it keeps sensitive information safe, and prevents search engines from accessing and indexing it.

The added security of the Deep Web makes it attractive for those who want their online activities to remain anonymous. Unlike the Deep Web, which prevents outsiders from accessing information, the owners of dark websites allow anyone with the right browser to access their sites. One of the most popular of these is The Onion Browser, more commonly known as Tor.

The dark web is like “The Wild West” of the Internet. It’s an area beyond the reach of law enforcement, hence the complete lack regulations or protection. Although not everyone who uses the dark web engages in illicit activities – it has a history of being a platform for political dissidents and corporate whistleblowers – many visitors are there for less than upstanding reasons.

Cybercrime costs US businesses billions of dollars each year. The majority of information hackers steal from businesses ends up on the dark web for sale to identity thieves and corporate spies.

But, the real danger is that it provides a communication and educational training ground for hackers and would-be hackers. Although the competition among different hacking groups is fierce, there’s still a willingness among cyber criminals to share techniques and assist one another.

It’s this access to the “tools of the trade” and the guidance required to pull off successful hacks, attacks, and scams that makes the dark web so dangerous to your business. Anyone with the time and inclination to learn how to steal valuable data from your business can check out an online tutorial or two, pay for some basic hacking software from one of these marketplaces, and set their sights on you.

While they might not be the stories that make national headlines, small and mid-sized businesses are targeted every day by cybercriminals looking to make a fast buck.

Be Proactive – Protect Your Business.

When a news story comes out about a large corporate hack, many of my clients contact me to learn how they can better protect their businesses. The advice I give centers around educating their employees about the dangers of online crime and developing company procedures to prevent it from happening. A few of the actionable suggestions I offer include:

  • Train new hires on the proper handling of corporate data and procedures to limit data loss, including ways to handle phishing scams. Besides an initial onboarding training session, all employees should attend refresher courses throughout the year. The vast majority of cybercriminals gain access to a company’s network through mistakes made by employees.
  • Demand the use of strong passwords and two-factor authorization. It’s advisable that you assign strong passwords to each individual employee to prevent them from using passwords that are easy to guess, as well as implementing two-factor authorization.
  • Consider installing a segmented network to handle your company’s computing needs. A segmented network helps to prevent successful hacking attempts by creating completely separate networks that are protected by individual firewalls. If a hacker breaches one portion of your network, he won’t have access to all of your data.
  • Think about buying hacking insurance and conduct penetration testing. The cost of cybercrime will exceed 6 billion dollars by 2021. That’s a lot of money. Investing in cyber attack insurance is a good idea for businesses with a great deal of exposure. Plus, it’s always a good idea to hire an IT Security Firm to conduct a penetration test of your network.

Protect your business by reaching out to the CSP Inc. team: (919) 424-2000 or info@cspinc.com.

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