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The Dark Web vs. The Open Web: Assessing the Greater Threat to Enterprise Security

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Last Modified Date: May 16, 2024

Many security professionals are rightly concerned about the dangers posed by personal information available on the dark web. Dark web monitoring services play a crucial role in identifying and mitigating these risks, alerting businesses to potential breaches and exposures. However, while the dark web garners much attention for its secretive and often illicit nature, it is actually the data brokers operating in plain sight that pose a more substantial and direct threat to enterprise security. 

Barriers of the Dark Web

The dark web isn’t indexed by traditional search engines and can only be accessed through special software like Tor. Once on the dark web, effectively navigating it to find specific information also requires a deep understanding of its unique structure and content. Additionally, data obtained from the dark web, such as encrypted or specially formatted files, often requires further decryption or interpretation before it can be effectively used. These barriers deter many opportunistic cybercriminals who prefer the path of least resistance.

The Ease of Access to Personal Data on the Open Web

In contrast, data brokers provide a much easier and faster route for cybercriminals to access personal data.Ā Why bother with navigating the dark web and sifting through breach repositories when you can just search the open web for the specific name of a target or targets and find their info instantly? A malicious actor can use data brokers to find data on a very large number of human targets in the same amount of time it would take even a seasoned hacker to find details on just a few people using the dark web. Once obtained, data broker info can then be leveraged for phishing and other social engineering attacks, credential theft, account takeover, identity theft, fraud, doxing, harassment, or physical violence.

Data Brokers Are the More Immediate Threat

Cybercriminals use detailed personal data from data brokers to supplement any information they may have already acquired from the dark web. This enriched dataset enables them to craft more convincing and targeted attacks, increasing their chances of success. Therefore, while data on the dark web poses dangers, the real, more immediate threat stems from the vast array of data brokers on the open web, which equip threat actors with the extensive personal data they need for effective exploitation.

Minimizing Exposure

Reducing the visibility of personal data through data broker removal minimizes your overall exposure along with the risk of being targeted. The goal is to make it as difficult as possible for cybercriminals to obtain and misuse personal information. Organizations with readily accessible executive and employee personal data on data broker sites present much easier and more attractive targets because such publicly accessible data creates a large attack surface that even inexperienced hackers can exploit.

Reducing Opportunities For Cybercriminals

While we cannot control all aspects of personal data exposure, especially on the dark web, we can take significant and effective steps to remove from public view the personal data that is within our reach. Doing so prevents potential threats by reducing the opportunities for cybercriminals and helps ensure ongoing privacy and security within organizations.

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