Is Monitoring the Dark Web the best way to Slow down Cybercrime?

According to ITProPortal, the cybercrime economy could be bigger than Apple, Google and Facebook combined. The industry has matured into an organized market that is probably more profitable than the drug trade.

Criminals use innovative and state-of-the-art tools to steal information from large and small organizations and then either use it themselves or, most common, sell it to other criminals through the Dark Web.

Small and mid-sized businesses have become the target of cybercrime and data breaches because they don’t have the interest, time or money to set up defenses to protect against an dark web links attack. Many have thousands of accounts that hold Personal Identifying Information, PII, or intelligent property that may include patents, research and unpublished electronic assets. Other small businesses work directly with larger organizations and can serve as a portal of entry much like the HVAC company was in the target data breach.

Some of the brightest minds have developed creative ways to prevent valuable and private information from being stolen. These information security programs are, for the most part, defensive in nature. They basically put up a wall of protection to keep malware out and the information inside safe and secure.

Sophisticated hackers discover and use the organization’s weakest links to set up an attack

Unfortunately, even the best defensive programs have holes in their protection. Here are the challenges every organization faces according to a Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report in 2013:

76 percent of network intrusions explore weak or stolen credentials
73 percent of online banking users reuse their passwords for non-financial websites
80 percent of breaches that involved hackers used stolen credentials
Symantec in 2014 estimated that 45 percent of all attacks is detected by traditional anti-virus meaning that 55 percent of attacks go undetected. The result is anti-virus software and defensive protection programs can’t keep up. The bad guys could already be inside the organization’s walls.

Small and mid-sized businesses can suffer greatly from a data breach. Sixty percent go out of business within a year of a data breach according to the National Cyber Security Alliance 2013.

What can an organization do to protect itself from a data breach?

For many years I have advocated the implementation of “Best Practices” to protect personal identifying information within the business. There are basic practices every business should implement to meet the requirements of federal, state and industry rules and regulations. I’m sad to say very few small and mid-sized businesses meet these standards.

The second step is something new that most businesses and their techs haven’t heard of or implemented into their protection programs. It involves monitoring the Dark Web.

The Dark Web holds the secret to slowing down cybercrime

Cybercriminals openly trade stolen information on the Dark Web. It holds a wealth of information that could negatively impact a businesses’ current and prospective clients. This is where criminals go to buy-sell-trade stolen data. It is easy for fraudsters to access stolen information they need to infiltrate business and conduct nefarious affairs. A single data breach could put an organization out of business.

Fortunately, there are organizations that constantly monitor the Dark Web for stolen information 24-7, 365 days a year. Criminals openly share this information through chat rooms, blogs, websites, bulletin boards, Peer-to-Peer networks and other black market sites. They identify data as it accesses criminal command-and-control servers from multiple geographies that national IP addresses cannot access. The amount of compromised information gathered is incredible. For example:

Millions of compromised credentials and BIN card numbers are harvested every month
Approximately one million compromised IP addresses are harvested every day
This information can linger on the Dark Web for weeks, months or, sometimes, years before it is used. An organization that monitors for stolen information can see almost immediately when their stolen information shows up. The next step is to take proactive action to clean up the stolen information and prevent, what could become, a data breach or business identity theft. The information, essentially, becomes useless for the cybercriminal.

What would happen to cybercrime when most small and mid-sized businesses take this Dark Web monitoring seriously?

The effect on the criminal side of the Dark Web could be crippling when the majority of businesses implement this program and take advantage of the information. The goal is to render stolen information useless as quickly as possible.

There won’t be much impact on cybercrime until the majority of small and mid-sized businesses implement this kind of offensive action. Cybercriminals are counting on very few businesses take proactive action, but if by some miracle businesses wake up and take action we could see a major impact on cybercrime.

Cleaning up stolen credentials and IP addresses isn’t complicated or difficult once you know that the information has been stolen. It’s the businesses that don’t know their information has been compromised that will take the biggest hit.

Is this the best way to slow down cybercrime? What do you this is the best way to protect against a data breach or business identity theft – Option one: Wait for it to happen and react, or Option two: Take offensive, proactive steps to find compromised information on the Dark Web and clean it up?

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