Discover the Truth about the Dark Web: Your Greatest Cybersecurity Risk

hacker sitting in front of screens

The complex and dangerous world of the dark web has been glamorized by entries into popular media but these depictions often fall short when explaining its true purpose. The dark web, also known as the darknet, represents a section of the internet that requires specialized tools and authorizations for access. It is unlikely that an ordinary internet user using popular browsers such as Chrome or Explorer would venture into this hidden realm. However, security leaders must comprehend the risks posed by the darknet and take necessary measures to mitigate them. It is important to be able to decode the dark web’s malicious influences, pinpoint how criminals target users for information-sharing activities, and understand the steps that you can take to better protect yourself.


What is the Dark Web and What is it Used For? 

The dark web emerged with the purpose of enhancing the anonymity of government intelligence communications, leveraging the inherent capabilities of network routing initially devised to safeguard sensitive online intelligence data through specialized equipment and software. To access dark websites, one must configure a Tor Browser or an Invisible Internet Protocol (I2P) setup to enable anonymous online activities. The term Tor is derived from “onion router” or “onion routing,” and is primarily designed to ensure user anonymity, according to security software company Radware. It operates by using multiple layers of encryption, similar to the layers of an onion, where each layer unveils the next until the final layer forwards the data to its destination. Bidirectional information exchange occurs within the same tunnel, facilitating over 1 million active users on the Tor network on any given day. 

The dark web constitutes a relatively minor portion, approximately 4-5%, of the deep web, and its access requires the utilization of a distinct browser. The Torbrowser stands out as the most renowned option for exploring the dark web, famous for its ability to ensure user anonymity. Nevertheless, the dark web encompasses additional overlay networks that necessitate specific software or configurations for access. These networks include peer-to-peer networks and anonymity networks like I2P, Freenet, Retroshare, GNUnet, Syndie, OneSwarm, and Tribler.

The dark web serves as a platform with the potential for both positive and negative purposes. In general, exploring the darknet is not illegal unless a country imposes censorship at the national level. However, certain countries like China have implemented bans on accessing Tor Browser, thereby preventing their citizens from utilizing the network. Legitimate uses of the dark web encompass activities such as anonymous information sharing for academic research and background verification. Additionally, some prominent social media and news media sites operate on the dark web, enabling users to access and read content anonymously. Conversely, illegal activities prevalent on the dark web involve the illicit trade of stolen information, including user login credentials, sensitive personal data such as social security numbers, and payment card details.

Dark Web Price Index
According to the 2022 Dark Web Price Index, these are typical prices, in U.S. dollars, of goods and services sold on the dark web.

  • Email Database Dumps (10 Million U.S Email Addresses) → $120
  • Malware (U.S per 1,000 installs) → $1,200
  • DDoS (Unprotected Website, 1 month) → $850
  • Credit Card Data (w/ account balance up to $5,000) → $120
  • Payment Processing Services (Cashapp Verified Account) → $800
  • Crypto Accounts (Kraken Verified Account) → $250
  • Social Media (Hacked Twitter Account) → $25
  • Hacked Services (Netflix Account) → $25
  • Forged Documents (U.S. Green Card) → $160


What Does the Dark Web Mean for Cybersecurity?

The dark web poses a significant and multifaceted threat to cybersecurity due to several key factors. First , the dark web provides a breeding ground for cybercriminals to engage in illicit activities while maintaining anonymity. It serves as a marketplace where stolen data, hacking tools, and various forms of malware can be bought and sold, facilitating cyber-attacks on individuals, businesses, and organizations. Moreover, the dark web provides a platform for hackers to share knowledge, collaborate, and refine their techniques, leading to the evolution of sophisticated cyber threats. The anonymous nature of the dark web also enables the proliferation of underground forums and marketplaces dedicated to selling hacking services, ransomware-as-a-service, and other cybercriminal tools. Additionally, the dark web serves as a hub for the dissemination of illegal content, including child pornography, further highlighting the dark web’s detrimental impact on society. 

Overall, the clandestine and unregulated nature of the dark web creates a fertile ground for cybercriminals to operate, making it a significant and ongoing challenge for cybersecurity professionals. In light of the ever-evolving threats originating from the dark web, safeguarding organizations  through robust cybersecurity measures has become paramount. As the dark web continues to serve as a breeding ground for cybercriminals and their activities, protecting personal and sensitive information has never been more critical.


How To Better Protect From Dark Web Cyber Threats

Protecting your organization from cyber threats originating from the dark web requires a comprehensive approach that combines proactive measures and best practices in cybersecurity. Understanding whether information exists on the dark web plays a pivotal role in safeguarding businesses against potential threats. One key way to incorporate this into your organization is through the use of dark web monitoring tools. The tools function similar to search engines, like Google, but are specifically designed for the dark web. These tools aid in the identification of leaked or pilfered data, encompassing compromised passwords, breached credentials, intellectual property, and other sensitive information that malicious actors exchange and sell on the dark web. 

There are also several straightforward measures you can adopt to enhance the security of your data, thereby preventing its potential exposure on the dark web. Individuals should prioritize safeguarding their personal information which includes using strong, unique passwords for each online account. Enabling two-factor authentication whenever possible adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second form of verification, such as a unique code sent to a mobile device. Regular software updates and patches should be applied to operating systems, browsers, and other applications to address potential vulnerabilities that cybercriminals may exploit. Using reputable antivirus and anti-malware software can provide real-time protection against malicious programs and help detect and remove any potential threats. It is also crucial to exercise caution when clicking on links or downloading files, as these can be vehicles for malware. Regularly backing up important files and storing them in secure, offline locations or utilizing cloud backup services provides an additional layer of protection against data loss. Lastly, staying informed and educated about evolving cyber threats is key. Following reputable sources of cybersecurity news and staying aware of current trends can help organizations recognize potential risks and take appropriate precautions. Participating in cybersecurity training programs and adopting privacy-enhancing technologies, such as virtual private networks (VPNs) and encrypted messaging apps, can further enhance defense against the threats posed by the dark web. By adopting these proactive measures and maintaining a vigilant stance, organizations can better protect themselves from the cyber threats lurking on the dark web.


Written by Arielle Miller

Arielle Miller is a Marketing Content Coordinator at AgileBlue. Arielle graduated from Miami University of Ohio with a major in marketing. She currently resides in Cleveland, OH.

June 6, 2023

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