DARK WEB | 6.5 MIN READ
Your business' private information serve as a juicy steak to hackers who are ravenous for fresh meat. Hackers know they can make a pretty penny selling information like employee social security numbers and account logins to the highest bidder on the dark web. Read on to find out how hackers get your business' private information and the consequences of this information being sold on the dark web.
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How Hackers Get Your Private Information
There are a few ways that hackers can get your private information. While hackers sometimes use highly sophisticated methods to obtain your private information, sometimes it's as simple as exploiting human error.
Social Engineering Schemes
Social engineering schemes are the most commonly used hacking method. According to dictionary.com, social engineering schemes are defined as "the use of deception to manipulate individuals into divulging confidential or personal information that may be used for fraudulent purposes."
One of the most common types of social engineering is called phishing. To carry out a phishing attack on a network, a hacker mimics the emails, forms, and websites of legitimate companies in an effort to lure people into providing their company’s private information, such as credit card numbers.
Sometimes, a phishing email will contain a link to what looks like an account login page. When the victim logs into this fake page, the login information is stored and later used to hack their account.
Another popular social engineering scenario involves a term called baiting. Baiting is when a hacker places a malware-loaded item such as a flash drive in a conspicuous location and leverages human curiosity to gain access to a company’s network or victim’s computer.
For instance, a hacker with access to a company’s building could walk in and simply leave behind a flash drive loaded with malware. When a curious employee finds it and plugs it into a computer or an Internet-connected copier, then the malware infects the network, giving the hacker access to a company’s entire network.
This same scenario, though technically not social engineering anymore, could also play out if a hacker accessed your building and loaded the flash drive into the machine themselves.
Hunting for Weak Passwords
Hackers can also access your network by testing various accounts for weak passwords. For instance, since most companies use the same format for employee email addresses, a simple search will already give a hacker half the information they need to break into an important account, like an email.
Then, the hacker can test commonly-used passwords like "abc123" or hunt online for information commonly used to create passwords, such as pets' or children's names.
Employee emails are tied to so many vital company accounts. Using weak passwords gives hackers the keys to a treasure trove of company information.
Scanning Networks for Security Vulnerabilities
If a hacker is physically close to your business' office then they can use tools like network scanners to search your network for security gaps.
Once connected to a network, a network scanner can uncover PC's or servers running outdated firmware, find operating systems with vulnerabilities such as no antivirus, and search for certain employee's computers so they know which ones to hack.
Creating fake WiFi accounts that employees accidentally log onto gives hackers an opportunity to access your network too. For instance, if your company has any employees that ever work remotely, say, at a local coffee shop, a hacker who creates a WiFi with a legitimate-sounding name can easily access the computers of anyone logged onto it.
Port scanning tools can also be used to see if your network has unsecured ports, which creates security gaps.
Besides open ports, network gaps can exist in a variety of places, such as your physical hardware - for instance, your PC's -, your network infrastructure - for instance, your firewalls and switches -, your operating systems, applications, and data.
While Network-Attached Storage has its perks, like letting you have a "private cloud" in the office, when you enable file-sharing through NAS, you can potentially create gaps in your network.
If you have unsecured WiFi, such as a guest WiFi, hackers can use this security gap to breach your network.
As you can see, there are many nooks and crannies within your network that can contain security gaps, and hackers have a wide range of tools to find them. Whether you have 50 security gaps or one, keep in mind that all a hacker needs is one gap to potentially break into your network.
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HR platforms. Email accounts. Sales databases. Like a web, these accounts and more are usually interconnected because they're linked to an employee's email. If a hacker manages to break into just one of these company accounts, they could find the information to hack into them all.
Consider an employee's email as the hub of all their other accounts. This is where an employee would most likely go to reset a password for another account.
If a hacker had access to an employee's email, they could simply send password requests for other accounts to the email, and then change passwords for all those connected accounts.
Hacking an employee's entire account, and then the company's network, can happen in the blink of an eye.
What Information Hackers Take
When hackers take your private company information, they're looking for specific information that they know will earn them a profit. Financial information such as company credit card numbers and employee social security numbers are the obvious choices, as these most directly lead to financial gain.
Besides these obvious choices, hackers love to sell lists of company account logins in bulk. Since sometimes these logins aren't completely accurate, they sell in bulk so that the buyer is guaranteed at least a few accounts that work.
Selling an account login for a corporate email, for instance, can let the buyer pose as you and send fake invoices to your clients.
Take this real-world example as proof of how devastating it can be when a hacker accesses an employee's email. A hacker gained access to an employee's email at a company based in Georgia and posed as them by sending invoices with just the routing number changed.
The hacker managed to steal over $500,000 before the company noticed, and by then, the money was long gone. Besides selling account logins, stealing important company documents can also be lucrative to a hacker.
The hacker can either sell them on the dark web, publish them to harm your company's reputation, or encrypt them and hold them for ransom until you pay up.
How Hackers Threaten Your Business
Once hackers take your information and publish it to the dark web, it's almost impossible to completely remove that information. Private information could be used in so many ways to harm your company's reputation and financial standing.
Hackers looking to tarnish your business' reputation can post on your social media accounts or publish damaging information.
This private information can also harm your company's bottom line, seeing as it can be used for a host of nefarious tactics, such as stealing employee identities, creating fake invoices, maxing out company and employee credit cards, and more.
If hackers access your customers' information, they can harm them with everything listed above. This leaves your company potentially open to data breach lawsuits.
How to Protect Yourself from Dark Web Hackers
Since hackers use increasingly sophisticated methods to steal your information, that means that your business must use more and more layers of high-level security to keep them out.
Don't settle for just one or a few layers of cyber security. "The more the better" approach works here, as multiple security layers either keep a hacker out completely or slow them down so much that you can catch them before they even get into your network.
Cyber attacks and data breaches harm your company's reputation, potentially put you on the hook for lawsuits from customers, cost you money, and slow down productivity when your networks are down.
Consider hiring managed IT services if you want a comprehensive cyber security plan.
By layering the latest hardware and software as well as employing a team of trained professionals to address any security threats, you ensure that your company will maximize productivity and minimize financial and reputation risks.
Don't wait until your company is the victim of a cyber attack to ramp up your cyber security efforts. Act today to minimize the threat that the dark web poses to your business!
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Posted by Erica Kastner
Erica Kastner is a lead Marketing Specialist at Standard Office Systems as well as a University of Georgia graduate. She aims to use her passion for problem-solving to help businesses understand how to better leverage their network infrastructure.