With dark web threats on the rise, protecting your digital assets and sensitive data is critical to prevent them from being compromised during a cyberattack. Learning how to assess and address potential dark web threats will help you strengthen your cyber defenses and safeguard your organization’s valued IT assets from cyberattacks. Read on to learn more.
Your Guide to Assessing and Addressing Dark Web Threats
It is critical for your organization to build and implement processes for identifying and managing dark web threats. That way, you can prevent them from becoming full-blown attacks that will compromise data privacy and sensitivity. To that effect, you will need to understand how to:
- Evaluate the relationship between dark web threats and cybersecurity vulnerabilities
- Develop dark web threat intelligence to defend against dark web threats
- Implement best practices for threat and vulnerability management
Every organization has unique security needs, based on its size, location, and industry. The most effective way to optimize your defenses against dark web threats is to partner with a managed security services provider (MSSP) to streamline each step of threat management.
What is the Dark Web?
The dark web is a segment of the deep web where users can exchange information or conduct transactions anonymously. The deep web is a collection of web pages that cannot be indexed by the web crawling algorithms used by popular search engines, such as Google.
It is often difficult to find web pages on the dark web unless you know the specific URL of the page you are trying to find. As such, law enforcement and other governmental agencies find it challenging to hunt for criminals operating within the protected environment of the dark web.
The dark web’s anonymity makes it easy for cybercriminals to conduct illegal transactions, like:
- Selling user access credentials from hacked accounts
- Purchasing credit card numbers from data breaches
- Sharing illegal software used primarily for cybercrime
- Trafficking illegal substances (i.e., drugs, etc.)
By facilitating transactions through which cybercriminals exchange information, the dark web becomes an intrinsic source of cybersecurity threats known collectively as dark web threats.
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Security Vulnerabilities and Dark Web Threats
In many cases, dark web threats target vulnerabilities in security controls that cybercriminals can successfully exploit to launch an attack. In that way, they interact with elements of your system that are not on or connected to, and in fact have no contact with, the dark web itself.
As such, dark web threats may compromise your digital assets if cybercriminals can:
- Identify and exploit existing gaps and vulnerabilities in your cybersecurity infrastructure
- Obtain compromising information about your security controls (and how to bypass them) from insider sources, such as former or current disgruntled employees on the dark web
Therefore, you must ensure that your organization develops appropriate security controls to minimize the risks of dark web threats by scanning for and mitigating them regularly.
Which Security Vulnerabilities Put You at Risk for Dark Web Threats?
Dark web threats are among the rarest security risks, but they are more likely to impact your organization if the following cybersecurity vulnerabilities are not promptly remediated:
- Access control gaps – Most cyberattacks exploit gaps in the controls responsible for preventing unauthorized access to sensitive data environments. Examples include:
- Use of weak, easily decipherable passwords
- Single-factor authentication without secondary confirmation of user identity
- Poorly enforced internal password policies
- Weak encryption algorithms that cybercriminals can easily bypass
- Poor patch management – Delays in deploying security patches compromises your security integrity, as the controls will be operating on older and less secure version configurations. Information about these gaps will be readily available on the dark web.
- Lack of cybersecurity awareness – If your employees do not have adequate security awareness training, they will be susceptible to giving into social engineering attacks, like:
- Phishing, where cybercriminals pretext users into divulging sensitive information via email or clicking on malicious links
- Smishing and vishing, where users may provide their sensitive account information over phone calls or text messages to cybercriminals posing as representatives of trusted institutions (e.g., banks, government bodies)
The list of security vulnerabilities that could put your organization at risk of being affected by dark web threats is extensive—and difficult to monitor. Nonetheless, a threat and vulnerability management partner can advise on the best course of action for remediating any existing threats in your cybersecurity infrastructure and keeping your digital assets safe in the long term.
Dark Web Tools that Help Cybercriminals Launch Attacks
Many common attacks used by cybercriminals to breach digital assets are implemented blindly. That means a cybercriminal may try to find gaps in your security controls without any real prior information. If successful, they’ll exploit the gaps to launch an attack. It’s a crime of opportunity.
However, if unsuccessful in exploiting weaknesses in your cybersecurity infrastructure, the cybercriminal will often either try a different attack vector or move on to another target.
But when attempting to breach your system with information or tools obtained on the dark web, cybercriminals are likely to be adequately resourced and have higher chances of succeeding.
Information from the dark web that helps cybercriminals successfully launch attacks includes:
- Sensitive employee or customer account credentials, such as usernames and PINs
- Personally identifiable information (PII), like social security numbers or addresses
- Insider information pertaining to the accounts containing sensitive data—
- Or about security controls across your cybersecurity infrastructure
And the dark web houses more than information. To launch a successful attack, cybercriminals may also use sophisticated software-based tools obtained from the dark web, including:
- Remote access trojans (RATs), which can help cybercriminals obtain rogue administrative access to computers or systems in your infrastructure.
- Keyloggers, which monitor keystrokes to steal passwords or other account credentials that can then be used at a later time to log into your systems or networks.
- Targeted advertisements, which can facilitate spying on targets’ behavioral patterns.
- Malicious software (malware), which can be spread across your IT infrastructure and collect sensitive user data for ransom or launch sophisticated programmable attacks.
By characterizing the types of vulnerabilities that put your organization at risk for dark web threats, you will be better prepared to mitigate them, especially with dark web threat intelligence.
How to Build Dark Web Threat Intelligence
There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for mitigating dark web threats, but you can leverage dark web threat intelligence to bolster your defenses and increase your cyberattack preparedness.
Building dark web threat intelligence starts with monitoring the dark web for potential threat risks. Then, looking internally, you must also ensure that your employees are not divulging sensitive information about your organization on the dark web. If they are, they are giving cybercriminals an advantage when attempting to breach your cybersecurity infrastructure.
Monitor the Dark Web for Potential Threats
Monitoring the dark web for potential threats might seem challenging given the heightened level of secrecy across the dark web. However, dark web monitoring will provide the actionable insights necessary to develop robust dark web threat intelligence.
Examples of dark web monitoring tools include:
- Ransomware monitoring – With the help of a reliable dark web ransomware monitoring tool, you will find potential ransomware signatures on the dark web, staying a step ahead of cybercriminals attempting to launch the ransomware. Knowing which assets are frequently targeted by ransomware will also help you implement relevant controls for access points within those assets.
- Dark web infiltration – Learning how to infiltrate the forums or communities across the dark web will help you identify:
- Types of attack vectors planned by cybercriminals
- Threat vulnerabilities currently being exploited
- Information sources contributing to dark web threats
- Specialized monitoring – If you don’t have the relevant resources to monitor the dark web, you can outsource dark web monitoring to an MSSP, who can use specialized tools to build dark web threat intelligence on your behalf.
- Scouting for mentions – You can also scan the dark web for use of terms related to:
- Your specific organization or the partners and vendors with whom you work
- Types and locations of sensitive data you handle
- The industry in which you operate
However, you may find it far too cumbersome to keep monitoring the dark web for threats.
In such instances, it is best to consult with a threat and vulnerability management partner on which dark web threat intelligence vendors can provide insights into dark web threats.
Develop Intelligence on Insider Threats
Former or current employees could also be sources of dark web threats if they are selling sensitive insider information on the dark web. Going back to as early as 2016, Gartner has tracked a rise in insider threats due to disgruntled employees participating in dark web transactions, divulging sensitive information to cybercriminals for large payouts.
Cybercriminals may also recruit employees at organizations handling large amounts of sensitive data (e.g., healthcare entities, financial institutions) to provide sensitive data in exchange for financial incentives—especially when said data is heavily regulated (e.g., by HIPAA or PCI).
To prevent information leakage from your organization to the dark web, it is critical to establish an internal threat intelligence framework that classifies insider threats as:
- Light – The lowest threat level applies to threats that can be detected via rudimentary methods such as:
- Searching emails and other forms of internal and external communication for terms such as “social media” or “dark web”
- Identifying unusual external IP addresses that are heavily used for communication
- Detecting URL blacklists in web traffic
- Medium – Threats at the medium level can be identified by monitoring unusual employee activity related to:
- Sudden changes in an employee’s behavior resulting in complaints from the Human Resources (HR) team
- Random financial decisions such as bankruptcy filings or significantly large purchases
- Evidence of employee chatter in dark web chats
- Serious – Certain threats may be detected via machine learning-based analytics to identify involvement in dark web activity.
Employees engaged in dark web activity pose significant risks to your organization. They could be involved in crime rings or actively recruiting other employees into their dark web operations.
Data-Driven Tools for Dark Web Threat Detection
You can also leverage various cybersecurity tools to collect data that will help generate dark web threat intelligence. The data-driven solutions that will help detect insider threats include:
- Logging user access to sensitive data environments
- Tracking network traffic transmitted on web apps via web proxy servers and directories
- Monitoring critical access points, such as networks, endpoints, and emails
- Evaluating changes in employee activity, such as unusual access times and durations
Partnering with a managed detection and response specialist will help optimize your threat intelligence framework and ensure you collect the most relevant data on dark web threats.
Optimizing data collection tools and processes for dark web threat intelligence specifically will also help you refine the quality of data collected and ensure you are getting the most value out of your threat intelligence tools.
Best Practices for Threat and Vulnerability Management
Beyond managing dark web threats, your organization’s security posture depends on how well you handle threats and vulnerabilities. In general, you should implement the following practices to safeguard your critical digital assets and sensitive data from cybersecurity risks:
- Comply with the requirements of regulatory standards, especially those related to:
- Routine patching of critical cybersecurity infrastructure
- Penetration testing security controls
- Managing third-party compliance
- Identify and inventory all assets within your IT infrastructure
- Continuously scan your system for potential threats and vulnerabilities
- Remediate any vulnerabilities you discover during threat assessments
- Implement robust security controls for both on-premise and cloud-based assets
- Establish up-to-date internal security policies to govern cybersecurity implementation
- Invest in cybersecurity awareness training for all active employees
Rather than taking a reactive approach to threat and vulnerability management, you should take a proactive one. In practice, this means that your security controls should be functioning on an ongoing basis to avoid gaps in threat and vulnerability detection.
When it comes to managing advanced threats such as dark web threats, it is usually more feasible to outsource threat and vulnerability management to an MSSP who will minimize the chances of threats going undetected and help you maintain a strong security posture.
Optimize Your Dark Web Threat Intelligence
To keep up with the fast pace at which the Internet grows, you must develop systems to identify security threats in real-time and remediate any outstanding vulnerabilities. With the help of an experienced MSSP, your organization will be well-equipped to handle dark web threats by developing dark web threat intelligence to drive cybersecurity risk management.
To learn more and get started, contact RSI Security today!