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Dark Web Assessment to Prevent Cybersecurity Threats

Aug 18, 2021
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Did you know that the Dark Web can affect your business? Today, cybercriminals use The Onion Router (TOR) network and other browsers that anonymize user information to access or sell confidential details about your company on the black market. As a matter of fact, stolen information like credit card details, medical records, passports, bank account details, and usernames and passwords are all for sale on the online world’s murkier reaches.

Understanding the Dark Web

The Indexed Web

The indexed web contains at least 3.58 billion pages, according to the World Wide Web Size July 20201 data. These sites include everything we find on the internet, including Amazon, Google, and Facebook. So naturally, the indexed web, also referred to as the surface net or Clearnet, is accessible from any standard web browser and can be found on search engines.

The Deep Web

Surprisingly, billions of surface net websites are only a small portion of the sites that exist. That is to say, the majority of websites are part of the deep web – all of the pages on the internet that do not show in search engines. For instance, the deep web includes many sites that have enhanced security levels preventing the public from accessing them. For instance, the pages you access after you log in to your online banking portal or social media accounts are all part of the deep web.

The Dark Web

It gets more mysterious when we talk about the dark web. This part of the deep web comprises sites that exist behind encryption layers. Notably, the dark web’s secrecy means that users cannot find the sites using standard search engines like Google and other traditional web browsers like Chrome and Mozilla. Instead, the dark web lives on overlay networks referred to as darknets built on top of the regular internet.

Accessing the Dark Web

Additionally, users access dark websites using the TOR tool that conceals personal details like name, online activity, and location, making it appear as if you are accessing the sites from different countries. With the TOR, your IP address is bounced through several encryption layers to appear to be originating from another address. Besides that, the dark website you are visiting is also not where it seems to be. That way, users cannot work out who is behind the sites.

TOR is not the only tool for anonymizing web traffic to access the dark web. Markedly, other resources like I2P, Freenet, Freepto, Tails, and Subgraph OS use the same principles to anonymize users, site owners, and web traffic. However, users must use the same encryption tool as the site they are visiting and know where to find it by typing in the correct URL.


Dark Web Assessments

A dark web assessment involves analyzing the dark web to find out the availability of sensitive, private, and potentially damaging information about an organization and related systems and accounts. Typically, the process entails reviewing dark web marketplaces, forums, exchanges, and other cybercriminal hot spots. Notably, a dark web scan checks darknet sites to see if any of your information shows up.

Organizations can work with vendors to set up monitoring capabilities they can tailor based on their needs. However, the downside of setting one's own monitoring service is that finding relevant information on the darknet sites is a laborious, complex, and chancy task even for trained security specialists. For instance, you need to identify the starting points for the search process and develop a list of target sites that may interest your organization’s needs. Besides requiring a fitting plan to search the dark web, criminals who want to stop organizations and authorities from scanning the sites develop several tools to thwart such infiltration, making it more complex for organizations to assess the darknet without the necessary expertise and technologies.

Fortunately, with the right partners and solutions like Pulsar Security, organizations can integrate dark web intelligence feeds into their threat management processes and tools. As might be expected, the quality of the information you can gather from the dark web differs from vendor to vendor, making it crucial to work with experts in the field. Security vendors provide dark web assessment and intelligence gathering tools that mine into the darknet by crawling listed sites, including hacker forums. Mostly, the scans check the marketplaces that the company conducting the scan is aware of.


Benefits of a Dark Web Assessment

Dark web assessments help you discover if your organization has been compromised. The darknet scan looks for stolen customer lists and data, employee login credentials, and business email domains and IP addresses. If the assessment discovers such information on the dark web, then the chances are that a business has been breached.

Other than discovering if you have been compromised, you can analyze the dark web to assess your current level of risk. In this case, if you discover your information in the darknet sites, then you know hackers have an “in.” Subsequently, you can use such findings to assess your employee awareness and test the company’s security policies and controls.

Armed with dark web assessment reports, you can pinpoint the affected systems, locate the root cause, and patch the vulnerabilities. Finally, you can implement an effective security action plan to prevent future cyberattacks.


Types of Information Discovered Through a Dark Web Assessment

What should you look for in the dark web? A post by Hitachi Systems states that the dark web holds a “deep pool of stolen data, threat plots, and the tools for cybercrime.” The article continues, “this forms a well of intelligence that we can apply to our own threat prevention needs. But this most hidden part of the wider internet needs the right tools to explore its murky depths.”

1. Software Vulnerabilities and Exploits

Needless to say, all software programs have vulnerabilities. Of course, software vendors and security researchers publish software vulnerabilities to shield users from the associated risks. But wretchedly, cybercriminals sometimes get ahead of software developers and security teams. Today, the dark web is abundant with the so-called zero-day or zero-hour vulnerabilities comprising security flaws that the vendors and security communities have not yet discovered or developed a security patch to rectify.

More frequently, cybercriminals discuss zero-day vulnerabilities and exploits on the dark web. In effect, darknet assessments enable security professionals to identify flaws and implement effective mitigation controls before software vendors release necessary patches to fix the bugs.

A post by Hitachi notes that malware-as-a-service and other cybercrime tools, like phishing and exploit kits, are available to buy on the darknet from as little as a few dollars for a keylogger or a phishing page. Kaspersky also found that cybercriminals reap rewards of up to 95 percent profit by selling DDoS-as-a-service in the darknet. In addition, cybercriminals alarmingly even offer a sophisticated pricing plan for customers wanting to attack systems and websites.

2. Active System Access

Besides software vulnerabilities and exploits, cybercriminals often sell active access to systems and devices on the dark web. As different hackers specialize in diverse phases of the attack process, some excel at scanning and gaining access to networks and systems. However, instead of exploiting the target themselves, they earn from selling this access to other criminals who specialize in further exploration and exploitation.

3. Passwords and Accounts

Access credentials to online accounts for services like email, social media, government, and banking are popular dark web merchandise. Undeniably, usernames and passwords are valuable items, especially because most people reuse passwords across multiple online services. More frequently, security experts report that password reuse remains one of the biggest cybersecurity risks since once hackers have your password, they can very easily access your accounts and other personally identifiable information within.

4. Insider Threats

Dark web assessments allow organizations to discover insiders and suppliers looking to sell sensitive information, including credentials, confidential corporate data, and intellectual property on the dark marketplaces. The assessment monitors if your business name and other crucial information appear in the dark web forums, in turn helping you to detect potential insider threats. The process also enables organizations to implement measures to prevent data leaks and other incidents that may result in costly data breaches and the destruction of the brand’s reputation. Malicious employees can steal large amounts of data from employers utilizing hacker-for-hire services found on the dark web.


Identify and Respond to Dark Web Threats with Pulsar Security

Ignoring the dark web is no longer an option today. Pulsar Security provides a Dark Web Assessment Service to help organizations discover sensitive, confidential, and damaging information. The service consists of finding the data collected about your organization from the hidden corners of the internet. Unfortunately, due to numerous breaches over the last decade, more data, including valid credentials, is available to malevolent hackers. Fortunately, Pulsar Security’s Dark Web Assessments Service eliminates the uncertainty, allowing businesses to take concrete protective steps.

Our service provides potential discoveries including:

  • Breached usernames and passwords
  • Access to organizational resources listed for sale on the dark web
  • Software vulnerabilities and exploits
  • Personal accounts of key people, such as C-suite executives that criminals have breached
  • Personal accounts which have been breached or targeted

Our assessments frequently discover documentation, personal information, and vulnerable data that cybercriminals could leverage to launch an attack against your business. Pulsar Security provides dark web monitoring capabilities to continually check whether your information is in any of the darknet websites. The service will send you an alert if it discovers any of your data on the dark web.

What’s more, upon discovering your information on the dark web, Pulsar Security professionals guide you through several steps to prevent damage. For instance, we guide you on changing passwords, canceling compromised accounts and credit cards, monitoring accounts, freezing credit files, and reporting identity theft incidents to relevant authorities.

Duane Laflotte

Duane Laflotte

As CTO, Duane works to resolve complex technical issues for the team and its partners. He can be found at the bleeding edge of emerging technology and believes that continually feeding curiosity results in prolonged growth and creative solutions to complicated challenges. Duane is an expert technologist in the areas of cryptography, exploit development, networking, programming, and enterprise data storage. As an industry leader, Duane has worked with a wide array of Fortune 500, government, and military organizations - such as Disney, Bank of America, the FBI, SOCOM, DARPA, and the NHL – as a solutions architect, red team lead, and presales engineer. Duane is a highly accomplished engineer who has achieved expert-level certification as an Offensive Security Certified Expert (OSCE) among other credentials such as Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP), GIAC Exploit Researcher & Advanced Penetration Tester (GXPN), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), Microsoft Certified Professional, and Microsoft Technology Associate. Duane is an active FIRST Robotics volunteer and has coached teams which have earned the prestigious Chairman's Award.