Dark Web Monitoring: What You Need To Know In 2024

Dark Web Monitoring: What You Need To Know In 2024 Banner
Gareth Shelwell author profile photo
Gareth Shelwell Published: March 14, 2024

In the vast expanse of the internet, beyond the reach of standard search engines and ordinary browsing, lies a hidden segment known as the dark web. It's a place of anonymity and privacy, which, while beneficial for some, also harbors a marketplace for illicit activities, including the sale of stolen data and credentials.

In today's world, where data breaches can severely damage an organization's reputation and financial stability, cybersecurity professionals have added dark web monitoring as a crucial component of their overall defense strategy.

Understanding The Dark Web

Before we dive into what dark web monitoring is, it's essential to have a basic understanding of what the dark web is and how it differs from the 'regular internet'. The easiest way to do this is to picture the internet as an iceberg with three distinct layers: the surface web, the deep web, and the dark web.

Image of an iceberg symbolizing the 3 layers of the internet

The tip of the iceberg, the part visible above water, represents the surface web, consisting of websites indexed by search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo. This is the internet most of us interact with daily, encompassing everything from news websites and e-commerce platforms to social media and online banking.

Beneath the surface lies the deep web, a vast section of the internet not indexed by standard search engines. It includes benign, password-protected sites like email accounts, social media profiles, subscription-based platforms, databases, and academic journals. The deep web is much larger than the surface web, encompassing a significant portion of online content.

At the deepest part of the internet iceberg, we find the dark web. This part requires specific software to access. The dark web is hidden by design, offering users anonymity and privacy. While it's used for legitimate activity, it's become better known for illegal activity. Cybercriminals exploit the dark web's anonymity to trade hacking tools and leaked data and conduct other illicit transactions. This side of the dark web poses significant risks to individuals and organizations, as it's used as a vessel to conduct identity theft, financial fraud, and other forms of cybercrime.

Given the potential risks associated with the dark web, monitoring this hidden part of the internet becomes an essential component of a complete cybersecurity strategy.

What Is Dark Web Monitoring?

Dark web monitoring is the process of searching, tracking, and analyzing the dark web to identify and alert individuals or organizations to the presence of their stolen or leaked data. The intent is not to prevent a breach from occurring but rather to provide an early warning to those whose data has been compromised, giving them time to react before criminals can use their leaked information.

Callout image of a man with a megaphone saying Dark web monitoring can't stop a hack, but it can quickly tell us if one has happened.

Dark web monitoring utilizes a combination of automated tools and human expertise to navigate the complexities of the dark web. These tools scan dark web websites, forums, marketplaces, and chat rooms for specific data indicators, such as email addresses, social security numbers, bank account information, and other personal identifiers. The process involves:

  • Keyword Monitoring: Using predefined keywords, such as an email address or specific personal information, to search dark web sites for relevant data exposure.
  • Data Harvesting: Collecting data from dark web sources that can be analyzed to identify stolen or leaked information.
  • Threat Intelligence: Analyzing the collected data to understand the context and severity of the exposure, including the potential impact on the affected individual or organization.
  • Alerting: Notifying the affected parties about the discovered information, allowing them to take swift action to mitigate risks.

Understanding dark web monitoring and its functions is pivotal for anyone concerned with cybersecurity. In the subsequent sections, we'll explore the role of dark web monitoring in cybersecurity, what to look for in a service provider, and cover some frequently asked questions about dark web monitoring.

The Role Of Dark Web Monitoring In Cybersecurity

In today's interconnected digital landscape, where data breaches are increasingly commonplace and personal information is currency for criminals, the importance of dark web monitoring has never been more pronounced. This proactive cybersecurity strategy does not just add an extra layer of protection; it can be the difference between operational continuity and catastrophic data breaches.

The primary advantage of dark web monitoring is its ability to offer early warnings about data breaches and leaks. By the time a data breach is publicly known, the information may have already been bought, sold, and exploited multiple times over. Dark web monitoring alerts organizations and individuals to these breaches as they happen, allowing for a more immediate response to secure accounts, change passwords, and implement additional security measures to mitigate further damage.

Many industries are subject to stringent regulatory requirements regarding the handling and protection of sensitive data. Regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States mandate that organizations take proactive steps to protect consumer and patient information. Dark web monitoring is an essential part of demonstrating compliance with these regulations, helping to avoid hefty fines and legal consequences.

Learn how CanIPhish can help with compliance

Image depicting a file with a checklist

Trust plays a crucial role in an organization's success. A single data breach can significantly damage an organization's reputation, leading to lost customers and revenue. By employing dark web monitoring, organizations can demonstrate to their customers and partners that they are proactive about security and committed to protecting their data.

Dark Web Monitoring Services

Dark web monitoring services scan the dark web for specific data points or indicators of compromise (IoCs) related to your digital identity or organizational assets.

An example of an IoC could be the unexpected appearance of your personal or company's sensitive data on the dark web, like usernames, passwords, or credit card information. This indicates that this information may have been stolen and is being circulated among cybercriminals, suggesting a security breach has occurred.

Upon detecting compromised information, these services alert subscribers, providing them with details of the breach and, often, recommendations on how to respond. This timely intelligence allows individuals and organizations to take swift action, such as changing passwords or securing accounts, thus mitigating the risk of further damage.

Key Features To Look For

When evaluating dark web monitoring services, consider the following features to ensure comprehensive protection.

  • Extensive Coverage: The service should be able to monitor a wide range of dark web sources, including forums, marketplaces, and private networks, for a broad spectrum of data types.
  • Real-Time Alerts: Immediate notification upon detecting compromised data is crucial for promptly mitigating risks
  • System Integration: Dark web monitoring is an excellent addition to your existing security awareness training platform. Look for platforms like CanIPhish that offer this feature as an additional bolt-on.
  • Actionable Intelligence: Beyond alerts, the best services offer actionable advice and provide information on the severity of the breach, helping you navigate the steps required to secure your data.
  • Support for Compliance: For businesses, the service should support efforts to comply with relevant data protection regulations, such as GDPR or HIPAA, by providing necessary reporting tools and documentation.

Although highly sophisticated, dark web monitoring can be cost-effective, especially when bundled into an existing solution. CanIPhish offers dark web monitoring and its full suite of training material and phishing simulations for as little as $USD 0.60 per employee per month.*
*Based on a 500-user Enterprise subscription.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How does dark web monitoring protect my information?

Dark web monitoring is a service that scans the dark web to look for any signs that your personal information has been exposed. Even though it can't stop the initial theft, it can alert you when a breach happens. This allows you to take quick action, such as changing your passwords or securing your accounts, to prevent further misuse.

Can dark web monitoring remove my information from the dark web?

No, this is a common misconception. Dark web monitoring services cannot remove your information from the dark web. Once data is leaked or sold there, it's nearly impossible to delete.

Is dark web monitoring worth the cost?

Whether dark web monitoring is worth the cost depends on your specific needs and circumstances. For individuals with a high risk of identity theft or businesses holding sensitive customer data, the early warning system it provides can be invaluable in preventing financial loss or reputational damage. Weighing the potential risks and the cost of monitoring services can help you make this decision.

What should I do if my information is found on the dark web?

If your information is found on the dark web, take immediate steps to protect yourself:

  • Change your passwords for any affected accounts, and use strong, unique passwords for each account.
  • Alert your bank or credit card issuers if financial information is involved, and monitor your accounts for unusual activity.
  • Look out for signs of identity theft or fraud and report any suspicious activity to the relevant authorities or institutions.
Gareth Shelwell author profile photo
Written by

Gareth Shelwell

An Operations Manager dedicated to helping you safely swim amongst the internet of phish!