Dark web monitoring is the process of tracking your organization’s information on the dark web. Dark web monitoring solutions can scan through billions of pages on the internet to find leaked or stolen information, such as compromised passwords, credentials, intellectual property, and other sensitive data being shared and sold among cybercriminals operating on the dark web.
Dark web monitoring tools are organizational-level solutions that offer improved detection against cyber threats on the dark web compared to basic identity theft monitoring tools. Identity theft monitoring tools are usually designed to protect individual users rather than entire businesses.
Criminals and threat actors often buy and sell stolen information obtained from data leaks and data breaches on the dark web to avoid detection and activity tracking. The stolen data typically includes sensitive information like bank account numbers, social security numbers, credit reports, and other critical PII (personally identifiable information), which is commonly trafficked on the dark web as part of criminal attempts of illicit activity.
A dark web monitoring solution regularly monitors the dark web and dark web forums for any confidential data. Once the software identifies stolen data, it notifies the victim and offers remediation and data protection solutions.
This article will discuss what dark web monitoring is and why organizations should consider a monitoring solution to prevent their data from becoming leaked.
What is the Dark Web?
The internet (or the world wide web) is divided into three parts:
- Surface Web - This part of the internet consists of billions of webpages (currently around 5.5 billion, making up around 5% of the entire internet) that are commonly accessible by the public and indexed by search engines like Google.
- Deep Web - The deep web is made up of less accessible webpages typically hidden from the general public using authentication logins and paywalls, like email accounts, banking pages, and other sensitive records. It’s approximately 500 times larger than the surface web and inaccessible to most.
- Dark Web - The dark web is heavily encrypted fraction of the deep web unknown to the general public and a common site of criminal activities. The dark web consists of anonymously-hosted websites and self-contained, encrypted overlay networks, which are NOT indexed by search engines. It can only be accessed through anonymous web browsers like TOR (The Onion Router).
Dark Web and Identity Theft
Thanks to the anonymity of the dark web, it creates a haven for all illicit illegal activity and cybercrime. One of the most common digital crimes on the dark web is the illicit buying and selling of stolen personal information through illegal marketplaces, which is enabled by identity theft (ID theft), identity breaches, or phishing scams. This personal information was likely originally compromised in a cyberattack, such as a data breach or ransomware attack.
Common types of stolen personal data that could be found on the dark web include:
- Credit card numbers
- Debit card numbers
- Driver’s license numbers
- Social Security numbers (SSN)
- IP addresses that have been recruited in a botnet
If a victim’s personal information and sensitive data are exploited on the dark web, it can have significant financial and social consequences and take years to recover. One compromised account can cripple the most sophisticated company with high-end security platforms.
That’s why dark web monitoring solutions are essential to track user information on the dark web before identity theft occurs and take the proper steps to protect credentials and sensitive data.
How Dark Web Monitoring Works
Dark web monitoring services can help businesses discover if their sensitive information, compromised passwords, phone numbers, or intellectual property circulate on the dark web using automated or AI solutions to scan billions of pages around the clock. If any information specific to the company is picked up, the service can immediately alert the IT team that sensitive information has been exposed and suggest remediation options to limit exposure quickly.
A solid dark web monitoring software can include some or most of the following functionalities:
- Continuously monitor and track millions of websites on the dark web in real-time
- Record specific information like a work email address or company name, as well as other information that may be linked to your sensitive information and credentials
- Alert businesses on how long the data has been exposed and which methods have been used to gain access
- Implement a rapid and effective incident response plan to quickly mitigate threats and offer remediation solutions
- Utilize automated threat intelligence and sophisticated data insight tools to assess the threat levels of the recorded data
- Offer relevant information regarding the threat or leak, including related breaches and additional companies and organizations that have been affected
- Classify threats and risks, as well as connect related threat sources for improved profiling and threat mitigation
- Track specific keywords across the entire internet related to the user or business using automated solutions to identify a data leak or breach
- Integrate collected data with other security solutions like attack surface monitoring to create more precise threat insights
- Provide users with special credit monitoring and protection modules for identity theft
- Offer a spousal or children’s protection module that protects the identity and credentials of family members
Common Risks a Dark Web Monitoring Solution Can Identify
Besides malware and data breaches, one of the most common risks that many dark web monitoring solutions can detect are:
- Third-party breaches
- DNS spoofing
- Impersonation attacks
- Accidental data leaks
- Data leaks appearing in criminal chat rooms, forums, and dark web sites
- P2P leaks
- Brand misuse
How Your Personal Information Ends up on the Dark Web
While identity thieves may use cyber attacks to gain access to sensitive information and assets, indexed detection reports by CrowdStrike Security Cloud state that 62% of data and identity breaches in Q1 2021 aren’t related to malware at all.
Data breaches that expose personal information can be attributed mostly to factors like employee negligence, unpatched vulnerabilities, ignored attack vectors or unprotected APIs (application programming interfaces). A good example of this type of data breach is the Australian Optus data breach, which exposed 10 million records of Australian customers.
With the right methods and cybersecurity breaches, hackers can search, find, and compile a complete set of a victim’s information, known as “fullz” on the dark net. These full sets contain a complete overview of a victim’s credentials with sensitive and non-sensitive info and can be sold for a much higher price than separate pieces of a person’s PII.
Skilled cybercriminals can exploit high-profile data leaks and data breaches from major companies that hold large quantities of personal and sensitive information of customers. In many cases, hackers don’t exploit the stolen data themselves but instead sell it in clusters to the highest bidder on the dark web markets.
How to Protect Your Information Securely
While dark web monitoring offers individuals and businesses peace of mind against data breaches, it’s important to take action to prevent future potential threats and practice strong online security.
Whether you have a dark web monitoring solution or not, here are the best practices for preventing data breaches, reducing threats, and spotting signs of identity theft early:
- Using strong passwords and regularly changing them, as well as using password managers
- Implement MFA (multi-factor identification) for additional protection against unauthorized access
- Only access encrypted HTTPS websites
- Avoid browsing on unprotected Wi-Fi networks, like in airports or coffee shops, and use VPNs wherever possible
- Implement a strong cybersecurity culture and awareness among employees and offer cybersecurity awareness training or educational programs
- Protect endpoints and reduce your attack surface via automated protection, IT risk management, and vulnerability management programs
- Using identity management tools for a better overview of the lifecycle
- Implementing access privileges for employees and security teams
How UpGuard Can Help Detect Data Leaks on the Dark Web
UpGuard uses state-of-the-art, proprietary software to automatically detect data leaks anywhere on the web. The UpGuard platform provides 24/7 support with real-time detection and alerts while performing a surface and dark web scan for data leaks or breaches. In addition, UpGuard also offers continuous monitoring of internal and third-party risks to help your organization maintain its security posture.
For an overview of UpGuard's data leak detection feature, watch this video.