Cyber Warfare For Sale: Why The Dark Net Is Bad For Business
In 2013, the FBI and DEA shut down the infamous black market website Silk Road and charged its operator Ross Ulbricht, also known as “Dead Pirate Roberts,” with a litany of offenses related to money laundering and narcotics. Over the next few months, the general public, which was largely oblivious of the dark net, became quickly aware of the concept through headlines like “How I Bought Drugs from Dark Net” and “’I Was An Admin For Silk Road’: Alleged Hit-Man Target Tells All.”
But while the media eagerly ran away with salacious stories about ecommerce drug cartels and hitmen for hire, something was largely left untouched – cyber warfare. The dark net, which can be easily accessed using a Tor browser, virtual private network, specific software, configurations and authorization, is a one stop shop for all things hacker. This is bad news for businesses and web users because it means that virtually anyone can buy the tools they need to crash your operations, or pilfer your personal information.
Below we will discuss some of the dangers of the dark net and what cyber threat intelligence can do to protect you and your business:
Hackers R Us
Perhaps you remember the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that struck DNS provider Dyn in October 2016? The attacker crippled some of the world’s most popular sites and services including Amazon, Netflix, PayPal, Spotify and Twitter. For background, a DDoS attack floods a website or service with excessive fraudulent traffic requests until the target reaches overload and can no longer perform its duties. To do this, a hacker must first recruit a network of malware infected computers, known as a botnet, which can carry out their bidding. In the case of Dyn, the botnet was created using a large number of IoT enabled (internet of things) devices including DVRs, monitors, Wi-Fi routers and webcams.
While it’s not certain who launched the attack, theories include state sponsored hackers and cyber activists. Some cybersecurity experts think it may be the work of a script kiddie, a low level hacker that uses pre-existing codes or ‘scripts’ to launch an attack. In this case, the script kiddie went overkill. This is frightening for two reasons: First, it shows that a neophyte hacker can cripple the likes of Amazon using tools he or she got from the dark net; and secondly, that the Mirai a is botnet growing and available for hire on the dark net.
Of course, this doesn’t stop a DDoS attack. Plenty of tools are available on the dark net, including malware kits, phishing scams, spam kits for mobile devices, hackers for hire, how to guides and much, much more. Not to mention your personal information.
Theft and Thrift
The victims of identity theft will tell you that they face a lifetime of hardship as they try to overcome the damage to their name and credit. This is why it might surprise you to learn that this information is sold on the dark net for as little as $3 (or up to $30 with full information such as bank ID number, date of birth, etc.). But stealing a single credit card or identity can only last so long, which is why crafty hackers often buy and sell stolen information in bulk. And it’s not just limited to financial information.
Take for example the over 200 million hacked Yahoo accounts for sale on the dark net; or the 68 million stolen Dropbox accounts which are now available for free. The exposed information from these accounts (which include email addresses, passwords, answers to security questions, birth dates and more) can be used in credential stuffing scams to unlock various accounts across the web (including social media, banking and business accounts); especially if the user recycles sign-in information on multiple sites or services.
But if hacking is so ubiquitous, and its secrets are readily shared with anyone with an encrypted IP address, how can you keep your business or personal information safe?
The first aspect to realize is that hackers prey on the unaware. The better you educate yourself and your employees about cyber threat intelligence, the better chance you have at guarding against a data breach.
Take the following active steps to improve your cybersecurity protocol and reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim:
- Never reuse the same password for multiple sites and services – a single breach could compromise all your accounts.
- Change your password regularly. The Yahoo and Dropbox accounts were compromised on a corporate level and it took years for the public to learn about it. Even if it’s not your fault, hackers may have your information.
- Avoid opening links, emails or attachments from people you do not know well. This is the quickest and easiest way for hackers to infect your computer.
- Change the default security on all your devices immediately after activation. The Mirai botnet, for example, spreads by decrypting common default passwords for IoT devices.
The final step is to mitigate attacks before they can become problems. While firewall protections and antivirus programs can block malware and malicious code from infiltrating your device, it’s probably a good idea to work with a reputable cybersecurity provider to shield your company against sophisticated attacks.