Mike Schuricht, leader of the Threat Research Group at Bitglass, a Forcepoint company, discusses the role of ripped off data in cyber crime over the Dark Web The Dark Web: a cyber crime bazaar where data is a hot investment image
Data is seen as a valuable investment by cyber criminals.

Everyone understands the Dark Web ’s reputation as a play ground for cyber criminals who anonymously trade ripped off data and share in illegal activities. Within the past it required a diploma of technical knowledge to transact on the Dark Web, in recent years the trading dark web sites of malware and ripped off data has become increasingly commoditised. As a result, market segments, hacker user discussion forums and ransomware groups sites are proliferating.

Bitglass recently conducted some research that lights some light on exactly how Dark Web activity, the value of ripped off data, and cyber criminal behaviours have rapidly evolved in recent years. What we found should trigger alarm warning buzzers for enterprises that are looking to prevent their sensitive data from finding yourself on the Dark Web.

The Dark Web: an increasing threat
Back in 2015, Bitglass conducted the world’s first data tracking experiment to spot exactly how data is viewed and accessed on the Dark Web. This year we re-ran the experiment and garnished it, posting fake account usernames, emails and account details that would allegedly give access to high-profile social media, retail, gaming, crypto and duplicate content networks acquired through well-known breaches. Having baited the hook, the speed and volume of results that were observed far outstripped our findings of six years ago.

For example, the fantastic breach data we posted received over 13, 200 views compared to 1, 100 views just six years ago – that’s a sensational 1, 100% jump – with breach data being acquired by entities across five different continents. Furthermore, it took less than a day to kick 1, 100 link views compared to 12 days in 2015.

These unique information highlight how the growing volume of data breaches, with the rising number of avenues available nowadays to cyber criminals looking to monetise exfiltrated data, is fuelling a significant growth of interest and activity surrounding ripped off data on the Dark Web.

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The concealed nature of Dark Web activity is deepening
In a bid to outwit UK law enforcement and avoid tracking and justice, today’s malicious stars are becoming highly adept at using mysterious VPNs and proxies to hide their identities when accessing breached data. So much so your number of mysterious viewers we observed accessing our fake data on the Dark Web in 2021 (93%) far outstripped those noticed in 2015 (67%).

Evaluating which types of data were the top of shopping list for these mysterious viewers, gaining access to large retailers’ networks proved the most enticing, receiving 37% of all clicks. Unsurprising, given how retail businesses of all sizes had to pivot fast during the pandemic to serve customers primarily online. The scale of this digital shift has opened up a wealth of new opportunities for criminals looking to engage in illicit activities such as drop shipping or ransomware attacks.

Ironically, our research found that online criminals and criminals are profiting from many of the same tools and technologies that it staff in enterprises are making use of. In 2021, cyber criminals were taking full benefit of the public fog up to download ripped off breach data.

Keeping your computer data off the Dark Web
With ripped off data on the Dark Web spreading deeper and faster, firms will need to up their game if they want to maintain control of their data preventing it from being bought and sold by cyber criminals who are becoming expert at covering their tracks.

As corporate data moves beyond the firewall, traditional security solutions have become out of date. This means that firms need to re-think their cyber security form with mobility and remote work environments in mind.

When it comes to keeping your computer data off the Dark Web, our top six tips on the best practices and technologies firms should be looking to deploy include:

Hire a zero trust framework.
Ensure that your security also includes any device, anywhere, rather than only when devices are on the corporate network.
Employ systems to track the place and access of your data and experience.
Use best practice protocols and training to ensure all employees understand and practice good cyber hygiene.
Block SaaS iphone app sign in and access attempts with CASB, denying anonymisers and activity from unfamiliar and suspicious locations.
Make sure you have a security strategy in place that is independent of your underlying os facilities.
With the world fully immersed in digital transformation, our research findings reveal the extent to which data has become a valuable investment. With cyber criminals moving full heavy steam ahead to take advantage of this very lucrative opportunity, IT and security leaders must take action fast to protect their data.