5 Tips for Keeping Business Data Safe from the Dark Web
The dark web is a sub-section of the Internet that is not indexed by search engines and can only be accessed by browsers that access the Internet through anonymous servers. Because of the anonymity the dark web provides, it allows people to buy and sell illicit items. Sensitive data is one these items. In fact, a recent study found that excluding drug sales, sixty percent of the listings on the dark web can hurt businesses.
The dark web hosts a community of buyers and sellers for stolen data despite law enforcement’s attempts to disrupt it. As a result, data breaches continue to grow at an alarming pace. The damage that a data breach causes can expose a business organization to legal costs, lost business, and potential regulatory penalties. It can also seriously harm a business’s reputation with its customers, and even threaten the existence of many small to medium sized organizations.
While the threat the dark web poses is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, there are precautions businesses and government organizations can take to manage these risks. In this article, we will cover five tips for keeping an organization’s data safe from the cybercriminals of the dark web.
1. Create a Comprehensive Data Security Policy
The essential step to take for any organization exposed to the risk of cybercrime is to commit to a proactive security policy. Such a policy requires that C-Suite executives commit to the cybersecurity effort and drive the workplace culture needed to protect the organization’s customer and proprietary information. Stakeholders in lower and middle management would also need to align themselves to the cybersecurity plan once it is implemented. Additionally, a team of cybersecurity professionals would need to continuously identify new and existing vulnerabilities. Moreover, managers would need to give them the authority they need to respond effectively.
A comprehensive security policy should include an assessment of data security that includes employee records, proprietary information, customer records, financial accounts, and employee and customer login credentials. It should also consider the physical security of an organization’s workplace as well as the security of its IT infrastructure.
2. Conduct Frequent Penetration Tests
Dark web criminals think outside the box when searching for vulnerabilities to a company’s security measures. Organizations with mission-critical security requirements should fully engage their in-house cybersecurity professionals, however they should also tap into security services from outside contractors. For example, when a new security measure is implemented, the best way to check its effectiveness is to hire outside security consultants to attempt to defeat it. They can assess physical security by attempting to break into secured locations or gain physical access to an organization’s network as well as attempt to hack its computer network remotely. These penetration tests offer valuable insights when reviewing existing policies and highlight problems that people inside an organization may overlook.
3. Implement Data Retention Practices
Recent consumer privacy regulations introduced in Europe and the United States have put data retention practices on the radar for many businesses. However, these practices can also be effective in securing data against theft. If personal or financial data does not need to be stored temporarily or archived, then it should be removed from an organization’s storage. Cybercriminals cannot steal valuable data if it does not exist on company servers.
The first step is conducting a review. A data retention review requires a comprehensive accounting of both the data the organization stores and the legal and regulatory requirements that apply to it. For example, records may need to be maintained in order to facilitate investigations. Conversely, regulations governing credit card transaction data may strictly limit its storage. The disposal of data should also be reviewed to ensure that it is destroyed and rendered unusable.
4. Encrypt Sensitive Data
Valuable data that must be stored for an organization to serve its customers should be encrypted throughout each business process. This policy reduces the damage done when a data breach occurs because strong encryption is nearly impossible to defeat, making encrypted data useless to anyone who steals it. However, it is important to note that effective data encryption can be technically complex. Also, if the keys used to decrypt data are not secure, then the organization’s encryption can potentially be defeated. The entire lifecycle of sensitive data should be assessed by encryption experts to create secure end-to-end encryption.
5. Require Strong and Unique Passwords
The Achilles heel of many organizations continues to be weak password practices on both business and personal accounts. Reusing passwords is also problematic because large tranches of stolen passwords have turned up for sale on the Dark Web in recent years. Many data breaches are made possible by hackers purchasing these login credentials and searching the Internet for valuable accounts that match them. Once they gain access to an account, they then attempt to access other connected accounts that could yield profitable data. Employees who reuse passwords expose the organization to the threat of cybercriminals taking over their business or personal accounts.
Ways to eliminate these problems include implementing multi-factor authentication, conducting frequent password reviews, setting strong password requirements for employee accounts, and adopting password management software. This is especially true of critical network administrator accounts that can give hackers direct control of an organization’s IT infrastructure.
Effective Cybersecurity Requires Vigilance
Cybercriminals have a safe haven in the dark web to continuously and often successfully test the security of businesses and organizations. Creating a vigilant security culture is key to remaining a step ahead of them. The five steps outlined above cover the most common weaknesses that expose valuable data to the risk of theft or vandalism. The potential costs of a lax cybersecurity plan are much higher than the cost of implementing robust security measures.
The experienced cybersecurity team at Outsource IT can provide a comprehensive security assessment to ensure that your organization’s security measures are protecting your valuable data from being auctioned to the highest bidder on the dark web. To learn more please contact an Outsource IT account manager.