Cybersecurity has risen rapidly to the very top of many business owners’ concerns; in fact, it has become such a concern that many are prioritizing it over the physical security of their organizations – because the consequences could be ever more disastrous. Technology is taking over – the rate at which it is saturating the planet could never have been anticipated – and the numbers are astounding. According to Statista.com “As of January 2021 there were 4.66 billion active internet users worldwide – 59.5 percent of the global population. Of this total, 92.6 percent (4.32 billion) accessed the internet via mobile devices.” ¹ These numbers are only growing and showing no signs of slowing.
Unfortunately, alongside the innovation and exponential growth of the internet, there is a significant negative – the more web connected devices you have then the more likely you are to be a victim of a serious cyber attack that could – if sophisticated enough – spell the end of your business altogether.
So, we shouldn’t introduce tech into our businesses, right? Wrong! Of course, we can’t eradicate tech due to the risks because it allows us to be so much more efficient and stay connected, and, of course, tech makes levels of productivity possible that couldn’t have been dreamt of even a few years ago. With this in mind, instead of blaming the current technological landscape for our vulnerability to cyber attacks, we must educate ourselves on the potential threats that come from poorly protected systems and inadequate cyber security measures.
A successful cyber attack could see your sensitive data being distributed for free or sold via the Dark Web.
We have all heard of the Dark Web but, for those that aren’t familiar with the term, it is seen as a place where very illicit activities occur, and criminals congregate – and they wouldn’t be wrong. In the following articles we will explore the Dark Web in more detail and highlight the seriousness of your sensitive data being sold and distributed there.
The Dark Web
The Dark Web is a marketplace for criminals, where they can buy, sell, and advertise illegal goods and services whilst maintaining their anonymity. The Dark Web consists of small one-to-one networks that operate alongside the larger legal networks – but don’t be fooled – it isn’t a small operation run by a couple of tech savvy criminals – it is large and estimated to be roughly 5% the size of the total internet (that doesn’t sound like much but think about just how big the internet is!).
It is a very dangerous place to navigate. It is not illegal to access the Dark Web but it is easy to click a link or access something on there that is highly illegal. If your data ends up on there, there is no knowing who may have control of it – your company could be subjected to some potentially business-defining problems.
Let’s take a look at ways your data could find its way on the Dark Web.
The methods cyber criminals use to get your data to the Dark Web
Ransomware is malicious software that locks and encrypts your data. The cyber criminal responsible for the attack will then demand payment for the return of access – hence the name ‘Ransomware’.
Ransomware attacks are particularly cruel in nature. Your information doesn’t go anywhere but remains on your computer within your grasp – the only problem is it is encrypted. The cyber criminal will cleverly create a sense of urgency with a time limit for you to pay the ransom under the threat that if you don’t they will delete your data and it will be lost forever – or, in the worst-case scenario, released onto the Dark Web.
“I’ll just pay them this time and improve my security in case it happens again”. Unfortunately, this won’t work – you can’t trust a criminal – do you really think they are going to say thank you and give you your data back? Instead, it is often the case that business owners are left with no data, out of pocket, and with their tail between their legs. There are occasions that you are granted access back, only to find that once you have paid the ransom the cyber criminal simply targets you again knowing that you are not only capable of paying but also willing to do so.
A Phishing attack is when a cyber criminal uses fake/ fraudulent emails to gain access.
Cyber criminals use malicious links in emails as their choice of vehicle to carry out their attacks. The cyber criminal will design the email in such a way that the recipient believes that it is from a trusted source and of urgent importance. (They usually pose as a bank or colleague as these are two of the sources that would evoke the right response.) Often the email is based around a time sensitive subject – perhaps a ‘scheduled password change’ – once having clicked on a link, the recipient will have inadvertently granted access to the cyber criminal.
Malware is particularly brutal; it is designed with the sole intention of causing damage and chaos – or with the aim of stealing private data.
Malware is predominantly designed and managed by a team of cyber criminals as opposed to other forms of cyber criminality that are usually undertaken by an individual. Their aim is to make money, they do this by selling the Malware software over the Dark Web or by spreading it themselves. Whichever is the case, if it finds its way onto your system you’re in trouble!
Cyber criminals will intercept data that is being sent across an insecure network (public Wi-Fi, for example). Public Wi-Fi, in our opinion, should never be used for business purposes, as it has very poor levels of security (meaning you are very vulnerable when working on it). Cyber criminals have recently taken this one step further – a relatively new method of cyber attack is via a ‘rogue hotspot’, this involves the cyber criminal setting up their own public portal that imitates the existing legitimate one. A cyber criminal can then distribute their Malware freely, whilst directing users toward other malicious sites and listening in on their target’s web traffic – all this can be done whilst the target is oblivious to the fact that they are using an unsafe source.
Now that we are familiar with some of the ways that your sensitive data and credentials can find their way onto the Dark Web, in the following article we will take a closer look at the Dark Web, why the exposure of your credentials could be a disaster, and what to do to ensure that you are as prepared as possible in the event of an attack.
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