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The dark web, malware markets, and its dangers

Threats posed by the dark web and its malicious markets

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In the crevices of the internet, there has long existed the ominous dark web, a malicious web space inhabited by hacker organizations and malware gangs. The earliest campaigns pouring out from the dark web targeted financial institutions, bank info, and sometimes even government organizations. While those remain adequate victims, dark web operations have expanded since then.

What are we dealing with today? That, unfortunately, is hard to answer. One of the primary reasons is the lack of insight and observational tools into the dark web. As the name implies, it’s difficult to monitor even with federal resources, and as such, gauging threats, breaches, and managing proper responses proves incredibly challenging. Another dangerous aspect of the dark web is malware and ransomware services.

Now, entry-level hackers or those with low-level skill sets can purchase ransomware services, kits, and resources to launch malicious campaigns. It’s transformed the threat market into a business model, complete with purchasable lists of compromised emails, names, and addresses. It also means the infrastructure to cause great harm is sold in large quantities at no risk to the source. In a way, it’s like arming tiny digital militias with the malware variants of WMDs, complete with a list of targets from any point in the world.

Defending against the unknown

Critical to the nature of cybersecurity defense and protecting data is information. We drive those defense strategies based on insights, detecting threatening behavior patterns, monitoring for abnormal connections, and zoning in on risk factors leading to breach events. But the dark web is just that: dark. Hidden, encrypted, proxied, and safe from takedowns, it’s hard to gather meaningful data and track the kinds of threat campaigns malicious actors are developing.

Understand that hacker groups, members, and newcomers all collaborate in some capacity. They share stories, tips, and resources to achieve their goals. It’s a tentative network of trust, but it’s still trust, one with the goal of stealing proprietary data, trade secrets, and business intel. These co-op methods have evolved since the earliest days, shifting small independent operations to full-scale cyber gangs running a dark web ecosystem.

And, though cybersecurity has entered mainstream discourse, the exposure and discussion of dark web threats are minimal. The “dark web” is nebulous to a general understanding, associated with a dangerous part of the internet containing illegal material and operations. Therefore, in both the expert and civilian field, insight into the dark web is minimal.

With MaaS and RaaS (malware/ransomware-as-a-service) arming even the most basic entity with incredibly destructive resources, the dark web has evolved well beyond a safe zone for clandestine hackers after specific kinds of account data. Additionally, the scale of attacks has greatly expanded. Hackers are provided with a limitless supply of targets, ranging from corporate networks to hospitals. The expansion of remote working and addition of internet-facing devices (IoT) also provides fertile ground to launch complex threat campaigns.

Why it’s hazardous for your business

The disconnected nature of company networks poses the biggest threat, as you can’t prepare for what you don’t know. Networks employ monitoring tools and teams (if they have the resources) to secure resources within their WLAN. But securing all access points, devices, apps, and internet-facing material off-site is incredibly challenging. Then, add the component of the dark web, a space with zero insights. Federal investigations sometimes reveal the behavior and intended targets from the dark web, but it’s a gigantic blind spot for the rest.

Consider other factors too like non-compliance or the introduction of unsanctioned devices into a business network. For instance, if workers (remote or otherwise) connect to a company network that isn’t part of the hardware criterion, introducing new risk. What happens if that device is compromised? Is it housing critical business data like a company login or account file? It’s a small but common trait dark web entities look for to start their threat campaigns.

But that’s one small example in a vast web of potential weaknesses. Partners, vendors, third-party data clients, and remote workers all create a tower of potential intrusion targets. These targets could be compromised by dark web activity, and you wouldn’t even know it. Company networks must conduct routine penetration testing combined with active monitoring to sus out threats in their networks – external monitoring, therefore, is difficult. Hackers also deploy malware-free attacks and credential theft techniques, bypassing security safeguards so they have simple, lateral access to a target network. Those blind spots combined with the threat market on the dark web create a dangerous picture indeed.

While some organizations possess the capital, departments, and staff to invest in some measure of dark web monitoring/awareness, the harsher reality is a majority of organizations go without.

Defense against the dark web

It’s not an optimistic prospect when even some of the biggest tech names like Microsoft fall victim to dark web attacks. What can smaller organizations do to protect themselves with even fewer resources and experts?

The truth is, without third-party assistance, managing dark web threat response proves too difficult when combined with internal IT cybersecurity responsibilities. That does not mean, however, it’s a hopeless situation for companies and network organizations. As mentioned, third-party providers can specifically bring insight and observation into dark web activity, ranging from potential compromised targets and malware gang actions.

Third parties also gain insight with infrastructure, possessing access to experts, resources, and tech you are lacking. They can also help build the necessary framework to increase network resiliency in the case of a breach event.

Can Bytagig help me?


Yes. Bytagig is an experienced IT and cybersecurity provider offering a range of services and expertise to help you with your biggest concerns, including dark web activity. For more information, you can contact us today.

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