We think the internet is massive—after all, we can find almost anything on Google. Yet, this ‘surface web’ (everything found via Google) only accounts for 0.03% of the internet.
If we venture below the surface layer of the web, we then find the deep web. The deep web comprises password-protected web content, for example, email accounts, subscription services, and the plethora of digital content products sold through web platforms. There are also protected networks, such as schools, libraries and universities, only accessible through login details.
But even if we venture further, down into the deepest and darkest void of the internet, we encounter something different, something disturbing: the dark web.
What is the dark web?
Imagine a place of pure anarchy, where anything goes, where you could buy anything from illicit substances to military weapons. The dark web is populated by black market sellers, criminals, hackers, and CIA agents trying to catch them.
Created to provide people with greater privacy — achieved through end-to-end encryption, the dark web offered access mediated through a secure web browser, usually Tor.
The idea seems admirable, providing people and businesses with greater privacy and freedom to navigate the internet without being spied upon. The result, however, is a community of people and companies that do not want to be tracked. Many dangers lurk in the dark web.
Dangers of the dark web for businesses
Over 50% of all activities on the dark web are estimated to be criminal. In other words, if you buy or sell anything on the dark web, you need to be extra vigilant.
Also, the idea that everything on the dark web is entirely private is not accurate. After all, numerous criminals that had dealings on the dark web have been tracked down. If police can follow their activities, your activities can be followed by hackers.
Hacking is always a risk when entering this environment, but it is not the only risk. Your credit card details could get stolen when buying something via the dark web. The items you buy may not arrive or may end up being something different altogether. There are no guarantees, and the merchant could be long gone before you discover something is wrong.
However, the more significant dangers of the dark web don’t come from accessing the space directly but instead by having your business appear on the dark web in other ways. As a place ideally suited for selling illegal goods, the dark web is home to many auctions of stolen business data, from company secrets to personal information harvested through hacks and phishing attempts, many of which you may not know about.
How to protect yourself from the dark web
Most people and businesses will never need to use the dark web, but that doesn’t mean it won’t affect you.
You may be worried that your business information could be circulating through the dark web, which usually occurs after being hacked. In this case, develop your IT security to reduce your threat level. It’s also a good idea to work with cyber security teams to monitor the dark web for mentions of your business. Track if your data has been stolen, so you can take action and perform disaster recovery procedures, as well as look into how the leak occurred in the first place.
Using and working with the dark web requires extra vigilance.
It is best to know why exactly you want to use it—it isn’t a place to wander aimlessly. If you operate in a field that might want to use it, e.g. journalism, it’s vitally important to have your systems set up as securely as possible and to thoroughly train all users to ensure safe navigation of the dark web.