The dark web made its appearance back in 2010, and ever since, this deeply hidden part of the internet has been the source of dangers and illicit activities. A thriving hub of marketplaces selling off various sensitive information, drugs, malware, fraud, and almost everything illegal, the dark web has been a constant source of anxiety for everyone. 


However, the dark web has gone through significant changes in recent years, primarily with its popularity. As access to the dark web becomes easier, organizations are looking for more sophisticated methods to ensure cybersecurity. So how is this evolution within the dark web alarming for organizations, and where does threat intelligence come into play?


What is the dark web really?

When it comes to the dark web, there is always the persona of this dark, mysterious place attached to it. The dark web is hidden within the deepest parts of the internet and requires the Tor browser to access it. 

It is indeed true that the dark web is an illicit hub of criminal activity, but people have also used it for many productive reasons. Since users can remain anonymous and secure, many social activists and whistleblowers access the dark web to seek help or information. 


Similarly, journalists use the dark web to go hog after a potential lead to some story. However, accessing the dark web requires users to remain vigilant and maintain security. Since anonymity is crucial over the dark web, many people use a combination of VPN and Tor to access the dark web that prevents trackbacks and maintains privacy. 


However, the dark web is also often exploited for the secure platform it is. Many criminals and threat actors use the web to carry out illicit activities and drug trade, posing a cybersecurity risk. Therefore it is crucial to maintain safe browsing habits and protect your identity with online security tools while accessing the dark Web. 


Understanding the 2021 Dark Web 

Ever since its advent, the dark web has posed a specific risk to cybersecurity. The anonymity and security over the deepest part of the internet allowed many cybercriminals to carry out illicit activities. However, the 2021 evolution of the dark web is becoming even more sinister with the advancements within technology. 


A recent report by Bitglass reveals how information travels 11 times faster on the dark web than it used to six years ago. While looking at the bigger picture, the situation seems downright alarming. The dark web serves as a platform for carrying out various trade activities, which also includes a trade of multiple dangerous items that can lead to long term harm, such as: 


  • Malware 
  • Ransomware
  • Personally identifiable information (PII)
  • Stolen credit card information 
  • Bank information 
  • Government secrets 
  • Drugs 


But this is just the tip of the iceberg. An even more alarming aspect to all this trade is the prices at which it is conducted. A glance at the 2021 price list of the dark web is enough to make anyone realize what their information is worth. 


And this all only means that a cybercriminal only has to go through hacking a few accounts and conducting a few data breaches to sell information over the dark web. Moreover, with the evolution of the dark web, the threat actor also might not have to go through many hassles to spread that information. According to the same report, on average such data now receives over 13,200 views within a day alone. 


How are the organizations at risk?

Most of the things that are present over the dark web are the ones organizations should remain vigilant of since they pose a potential risk to their security, such as:


  • Malware and Ransomware

Traders are selling various kinds of malware and ransomware over the dark web for anyone to buy. These are often in the form of fully coded programs and often as toolkits inspiring threat actors to launch attacks for revenge, money, or information. At times organizations also fall victim to malware or ransomware attacks due to their information being available on the dark Web. Malware or ransomware can potentially damage an organization’s reputation and financial structure, and often such attacks might also cripple the business altogether. 


  • Cracked Software 

Another seemingly harmless thing found over the dark web is cracked software. These are cracked versions of once-paid software that claim to offer the same levels of piracy and security to its users for free. Since this software has their coded information slightly changed, they pose a risk to any of its users and are often used to spread malware, create backdoors within the user’s device for long-term access, or even spying. An organization can knowingly or even unknowingly fall victim to this software either by getting lured by the “free” security they provide or by getting scammed by someone and having them installed within the admin devices. 


  • Stolen information 

Information stolen from data breaches is in high demand over the dark web. This information can often consist of bank information collected after hacking into a bank or e-commerce website. Since organizations deal with the personal data of their clients and customers, they are at particular risk of falling victim to such hack attacks. A threat actor might view an organization’s database as a critical price to gaining financial strength. With the dark web a throbbing marketplace for such information, a threat actor can look for ways to hack into systems and steal that information and later sell it over the dark web. There have been several instances where sensitive information of people have ended up over the dark Web such as the recent Facebook data leaks. 


But are these the problems of the dark web alone?

The main problem with the evolution of the dark web is that these threats are no longer confined to the dark web marketplaces alone. As the threat actors become more sophisticated with the malicious technology they are developing, they can create several disguised methods of selling such software over the surface web. 


Indeed, you won’t find open marketplaces over the surface web, but many websites sell bogus software termed as free laced with malware or backdoors. Some even come off as brands such as free VPNs that steal your information in a very legitimate manner. The only difference remains that these marketplaces allow anonymity and security over the dark web while hiding such activities is somewhat tricky over the surface web. 


Can threat intelligence help maintain cybersecurity?

Threat intelligence is a method that helps organizations strengthen their pre-existing security infrastructure based on evidence and knowledge collected from multiple resources. The information collected within a threat intelligence session contains context, indicators, mechanism, and action-based advice against editing or emerging threats to an organization’s assets. 


Within the modern threat environment that has grown tenfold, threat intelligence can help organizations remain vigilant and build defenses against the worst forms of attacks. In a typical threat intelligence session, a professional scours through the web, looking at the surface, dark and deep web for the possible threats that could harm an organization. The collected information is then automated through machine learning to build adequate endpoint security and response for robust threat management. 


Moreover, apart from protecting an organization from possible cyber attacks, threat intelligence also helps within the recovery process for any victim organization. After an attack, threat intelligence is used to scale the amount of information the organization has lost to the data breach. It also helps in analysis, digital forensics, and finding evidence within the cyber threat incident investigation. 


Final words 

The cyber threat landscape remains in constant evolution, and as the threat actors become more and more sophisticated, we need better security measures to ensure cybersecurity. Threat intelligence is one such measure that helps organizations remain in the loop of whatever dangers lurking within the dark web so they can come up with relevant security measures against them. If your organization is looking to ramp up its threat intelligence efforts, HackNotice can help. Contact us today to discuss how our platform can help protect your business easily. 



About the contributor: Waqas is a cybersecurity journalist and writer who has a knack for writing technology and online privacy-centric articles. He strives to help achieve a secure online environment and is skilled in writing topics related to cybersecurity, AI, DevOps, Cloud security, and a lot more. Waqas runs the project, which presents expert opinions on online privacy & Security.

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