What Is the Dark Web and Why It’s Vital That You Stay Vigilant

    What Is the Dark Web and Why It’s Vital That You Stay VigilantUsage of the dark web for malicious activity is on the rise. A recent study by IBM reveals there are tens of thousands of cloud accounts for sale, and in 71% of these cases, the people selling the accounts offer Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) access to the sensitive information they’re peddling. Moreover, the report discovered that almost half of the 2,500 cloud-related threats recorded through Q2 2021 emerged over the last 18 months.

    Thankfully, companies can protect themselves from dark web threats, given the right tools and information. Read on to learn what the dark web is, what makes it different from the deep and open webs, how it’s used, and how you can safeguard your company with the help of the cybersecurity experts at GSI.

    What Is the Dark Web?

    The dark web consists of a hidden network of sites that can only be accessed using a special web browser. People can use the dark web anonymously and privately—therefore, it is often used for nefarious activity.

    This isn’t always the case, however, because the principal characteristic of the dark web that makes it appealing is the fact that you can use it to hide any information you consider sensitive, such as intellectual property and customer data. Because people can only connect to the dark web using a special browser, such as Tor, anything kept in there can’t be found through common search engines, such as Google or Bing.

    Dark Web vs. Deep Web vs. Open Web—How Are They Different?

    While the deep and dark webs are often used interchangeably, they’re very different, and the open web has little in common with either. Here’s a breakdown of what comprises each facet of the web.

    Deep Web

    The deep web simply refers to sites and pages that aren’t indexed by search engines. It makes up the vast majority of the internet, with around 550 billion documents compared to the open web, which only has around a billion.

    The deep web, for the most part, contains neutral or benevolent information, sites, and data. For instance, on the deep web, you’ll find:

      • Email messages
      • Private information from social media sites
      • Bank statements
      • Health records

    Anything kept on the internet that you can’t find using a search engine is on the deep web. The dark web is a part of the deep web.

    Dark Web

    The dark web consists of non-indexed pages, as well as a randomized network infrastructure that makes it nearly impossible to connect a human user with the content they keep on the dark web.

    How Does the Dark Web’s Randomized Pathway Work?

    When you connect to a website with a typical browser, like Chrome or Edge, you do so via the most direct path possible at the moment. For example, unless it’s done intentionally, someone in Colorado accessing a site hosted in California wouldn’t have their request routed to Spain. While it may not make a beeline for California, the open web is designed to efficiently transmit requests and replies, so the connection will be more or less direct.

    The dark web is designed to conceal the identities of its users, so it sends requests and replies through thousands of servers, referred to as “nodes.” These nodes are chosen randomly by an algorithm, making it extremely difficult to associate a user’s location with the internet data they interact with.

    Open Web

    The open web is what you’re using right now. It consists of the sites we use to get information, many of which have been indexed by common search engines.

    What Information Can Be Found on the Dark Web?

    You can find a diverse mix of illicit and legal things on the dark web. Because it would be difficult, at best, for investigators to use common tracking techniques to connect dark web users with their transmissions, you can find illicit items such as:

    • Drugs
    • Stolen sensitive data
    • Weapons
    • Stolen user accounts

    However, people also use the dark web for other reasons.

    Why Do People Use the Dark Web?

    In some situations, the dark web is used for what many would consider good reasons, but it’s also a source of serious threats, particularly malware as well as markets for sensitive user information.

    Good Reasons

    People use the dark web to publish books that have been out of print, political news from popular news sites, and whistleblower reports. For most individuals, these and other uses of the dark web can do significant good for people and organizations.

    Bad Reasons

    The dark web is prime real estate for publishing and selling:

      • Sensitive user information
      • Bank and credit card credentials
      • Malware designed to attack corporate targets
      • Drugs
      • Guns and military-grade weaponry
      • Pornography

    GSI’s Dark Web Monitoring Services: Helping You Protect Your Organization

    Companies can protect themselves from cyberattacks and other forms of compromise using proactive dark web monitoring services, such as those provided by GSI. By taking a proactive—rather than reactive—approach, you can identify, study, and monitor dark web traffic for data or information that has been stolen. Using web scrapers, GSI’s dark web monitoring service discovers stolen data, downloads it, and alerts you.

    Reach out today to learn more about how you can strengthen your organization's cybersecurity posture.