Just the tip of the iceberg: why you should be monitoring the Deep Web

It is amazing how most web surfers are unaware that the surface net or clearnet is only a tiny portion of the entire Internet. The clearnet comprises of all websites that are indexed in search engines and are accessible to the general public.

This means YouTube, Facebook, The New York Times – all websites that can be casually accessed with a typical browser are part of the clearnet.

If the clearnet covers every site that everyone can access every day, then it must be huge, right? Not really. The truth is, the clearnet is said to be only 4% of the entire web.

The best way to describe the visibility of the internet is to use the iceberg analogy. The surface net, or the visible tip, is just a small part of the iceberg. The deep web, on the other hand, is substantially bigger than the clearnet – about 500 times in content volume. This is the part of the iceberg that’s invisible to surface observers.

What is the deep web?

You may have heard some disturbing stories about the deep web such as illegal drug trading, child pornography, hitman associations and some other criminal activities. Although it is not always used illegally, the deep web is a breeding ground for hackers and other entities that can abuse and misuse stolen data.

The deep web also houses a business’ digital assets such as databases, dynamic pages, and sensitive information (information that’s hidden from the surface net). Incidentally, hackers use the anonymity in the deep web to sell your stolen data in the black market.

> See also: What's lurking in the Deep Web, and is it a danger to businesses?

Financial data can be used to steal money, product information can be bought by dirty competitors, identity thieves can wreak PR havoc – the list goes on and on.

Keep in mind that cyber threats already cost businesses over $500 billion annually – reaching approximately $2 trillion by 2019. This is why you must reach further and consider deep web attack vectors when developing your enterprise’s security. Below are some of the strategies you should consider:

Simple ways to protect your deep web assets

Monitoring the deep web is a direct countermeasure to data loss and theft. However, first, you should not forget the basics of online security. Today, there are several proven ways for businesses to protect their digital assets. Using self-encryption services for emails, hard drives, file sharing and messaging apps is a good start.

Encryption works by protecting data in transit from intervention and unauthorized access. Depending on the type of communication, a particular kind of encryption may be used to keep sensitive information protected against prying eyes.

For example, if you own a website, then your web host probably already implements encryption through TLS (Transport Layer Security). This encryption method uses a special handshake to secure the connection between a user and browser.

Apart from encryption, businesses can also leverage virtual private networks (VPNs) to improve security of connections from outside the corporate network. There is also an abundance of security services that help detect and clean up threats that compromise the safety of your data – from anti-malware to anti-phishing.

Monitoring the dark web

If you want to be more proactive with digital security, you should also take advantage of dark web monitoring platforms that can scour the deep web and protect your information. These can keep track of users on the deep web that may have stolen (or are attempting to steal) data such as new product designs, credit card information, passwords, source codes and other intellectual property.

Keep in mind that a dark web monitoring platform must be active 24/7 and can provide real-time reports and notifications. This is imperative for neutralizing a threat before they do any real damage.

In cases where the breach is already done, monitoring platforms should also come with resolution options that help identify the source of the attack, uncover the underlying intent, and offer legal services when warranted. Did a competitor hire a hacker for corporate espionage? Was it a random hacker who exposed a vulnerability in your infrastructure?

Learning the motivation behind an attack can help you decide the necessary countermeasures. It can also pinpoint security weaknesses in your system that must be improved. In case the attack was carried out for brand defamation, a dark web monitoring platform should offer reputation management services that can reverse the damages.

Organisational change

Lastly, not all security threats are outside of your organisation. In fact, some of the worst ones could be in it. A disgruntled employee, for example, can unload industry intelligence data to your competitors. A lack of workforce training can also endanger the security of your data, which can lead to employees inadvertently leaking information due to carelessness.

> See also: Top 5 high-risk threats in the dark web

If you want to preserve the security of your company's future, then you need the full cooperation of everyone. Invest in employee training regarding online safety, digital threat awareness, and specific countermeasures when necessary. To develop your training program, you can count on resources such as SOPHOS' employee training tools.

Deep web security is a growing concern especially for enterprises that rely on cloud computing. If most of your investments go straight to digital assets such as a website, SaaS products, and cloud databases, then you need to develop a security strategy with deep web coverage.

A comprehensive deep web monitoring platform in addition to employee training and encryption policies should get you on the right track.

Sourced from Daan Pepijn, Cloud Computing, Web Security Expert and Blogger for Hire

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is the editor for Information Age. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and cyber security.

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