Dark Web Monitoring: What It Is and Why It’s Important

The dark web has a reputation as a shady corner of the internet that’s hidden from conventional search engines. Often a hotbed for cybercrime, various forums and marketplaces on the dark web offer privacy for threat actors and budding cybercriminals looking to trade stolen data or discuss their next targets. But what if you could turn this illicit activity into a cybersecurity opportunity for your business rather than another thing to worry about? That’s where dark web monitoring comes in—here’s an overview of what it is and why it’s important.  

What is Dark Web Monitoring? 

Dark web monitoring involves actively navigating illegal marketplaces and encrypted forums to gather intelligence that could protect your company’s assets and reputation. Without targeted monitoring, the dark web remains a blind spot, and ignoring it could prove costly.  

The monitoring process involves using crawlers, automated scripts and manual searching techniques to gather intelligence from onion sites (only accessible through the popular Tor network) and sites hosted on other hidden services. Advanced search techniques help look for specific terms related to your company or its products/services. For example, monitoring might focus on terms like your company’s name, proprietary product names or the names of key staff. There’s also an assessment of the potential risks based on the information found. 

Most companies need a dedicated dark web monitoring service to get actionable or useful information from dark web forums and marketplaces. This is partly because there is so much data to sift through. Another reason is the dynamic nature of the dark web, which sees sites come and go all the time; dedicated teams and experts can keep up with this pace of change, but it’s hard for already stretched in-house security staff to do so.   

Why is Dark Web Monitoring Important? 

Detect data breaches earlier

The dark web is among the likeliest places where stolen data ends up. Threat actors who manage to exfiltrate information from networks often do so with money in mind, and it’s on the dark web where they can offer this data to the highest bidder on either their own sites or on dedicated marketplaces.  

Dark web monitoring helps you detect data breaches earlier by searching for posts about your company or its employees. With this earlier detection, you can: 

  • Minimize data breach damage. If someone hacks your network and steals sensitive financial information, you can take measures to prevent fraudulent transactions.  
  • Better manage your company’s reputation because prompt notifications about breaches and swift action can help maintain trust.  
  • Perform faster forensic analysis to determine the breach’s source, scope and attackers’ methods. Understanding how a breach occurred can help strengthen security measures to prevent similar incidents in the near or long term. 

Prevent account takeover

The dark web is chock-full of stolen credentials that cybercriminals often use to try to perform account takeover attacks. The most recent study, conducted in 2022, found 24 billion usernames and passwords on the dark web. Suppose a hacker manages to find working credentials for one of your employees. In that case, they can break into that person’s account and potentially pivot to access sensitive data or bring down essential systems.  

By monitoring the dark web for leaked credentials, you can proactively reset the passwords for affected accounts instead of leaving them open to attack. You can also use the finding of stolen employee credentials as the impetus to implement additional security measures that prevent unauthorized access to accounts (like multi-factor authentication). 

Threat actor insights

Dark web monitoring provides valuable insights into cybercriminals’ tactics, techniques and procedures. This is because there are several forums and chatrooms on which hackers and threat groups post about targets and activities. These interactions serve as valuable threat intelligence sources to help organizations protect themselves against emerging cyber threats.  

Hackers often discuss and trade sophisticated malware tools on the dark web. These discussions can include technical details about malware’s functionality, ways to exploit specific vulnerabilities, and updates or patches to existing malicious software. Extensive tutorials and training sessions available on the dark web teach criminal tactics, from phishing and social engineering to advanced persistent threats (APTs). By monitoring these educational resources, you can gain insights into the methods that might be used against your staff and update training accordingly. 

Reduce third-party risks

Modern cybersecurity extends beyond the boundary of your own network. Various high-profile supply chain breaches have demonstrated in recent years why it’s vital to manage third-party risks. Dark web monitoring is an important strategy for reducing those risks by providing early warnings about threats and vulnerabilities that could affect an entire network of connected entities.  

By monitoring the dark web for intel on key suppliers and vendors, you can learn how these third parties handle data and security. Discussions or sales of specific company data can indicate poor security practices or breaches at a supplier level. This information can be helpful in mitigating risks or in deciding whether to continue or alter business relationships based on the risk exposure. 

Dark web monitoring also lets you proactively manage risks by identifying threats that target specific industries or technologies in your supply chain. For example, suppose a particular type of router used widely among suppliers is vulnerable to an exploit being discussed or sold on the dark web. In that case, you can take preemptive steps to secure/isolate these devices or work with suppliers to patch any vulnerabilities before hackers exploit them.   

Identify vulnerabilities

One of the most frequently traded services on dark web marketplaces is exploit kits, which purport to exploit known vulnerabilities in software or other systems. These pre-packaged exploits are designed to be easy to use, even by attackers with limited technical knowledge, to deploy malware, ransomware, trojans or infostealers Dark web monitoring helps you stay informed about the emergence of new exploit kits and the specific vulnerabilities they target. This awareness lets you apply available patches on time, enforce tighter security controls, or isolate vulnerable systems, depending on the best available option.  

Dark Web Monitoring with Nuspire

Nuspire’s dark web monitoring service comes with continuous monitoring to keep up with the dynamic nature of the dark web. You’ll also benefit from data breach alerts, brand impersonation monitoring and expert reviews to ensure any alerts from the dark web are genuine. 

Learn more here.   

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