If you have a network, you're vulnerable to cyber attacks. It is that simple. But, some industries are a lot more appealing to hackers because they deal with personal information. Bank account numbers, social security and healthcare details, credit card information, and individual files are just some of the things bought and sold on the dark web.
With so much data floating around, it's safer to leave data hidden in a mattress (but that didn't pan out for this company).
Here are the types of data that hackers on the dark web look for.
Banks and Financial Institutions
Show them the money! Credit card details and bank account numbers are big business on the dark web. Hackers can gain direct access to bank accounts with the right information, and that means free money.
Or, in some past cases, it can mean holding incredibly lucrative individuals hostage for more money (ransomware attacks). Apps that store banking information have made these industries even more susceptible to attacks. One entry point is all it takes for the right hacker to make trillions. Banks and financial institutions cannot afford to have security that lags a millisecond behind.
With so many healthcare facilities switching from paperwork to digital forms, it's relatively easy for hackers to choose from many entry points. Healthcare facilities store incredibly personal details about patients, including social security numbers, billing details, insurance claims, and other personal details.
Data compromised in a healthcare breach could also mean a life or death situation for many people -- think of the many connected medical devices available. If someone wanted to control another person, taking over a pacemaker or other device could be very serious. Healthcare data is also becoming a riskier business due to an increase in telemedicine. While convenient for both doctors and patients, unsecured healthcare networks are a hacker's playground.
The media often cover attacks on large corporations, but that doesn't mean that smaller businesses aren't vulnerable. The opposite is true. While larger companies tend to have better security and more money to spend on that security, small to medium-sized businesses frequently invest less in cybersecurity—a big mistake.
If you were a hacker, what would be an easier target?
A large corporation with continuous security monitoring and a 24-hour cybersecurity team, or a small business with very little protection? What if that smaller business were in the healthcare or financial industry? It would be a lot simpler to steal personal details from a company that's not protected than one that's heavily guarded. This is why data stolen from small to medium-sized businesses is worth a high price on the dark web.
Government agencies are a wealth of information but not just the regular kind. Retinal scans, fingerprints, and all sorts of James Bond-esque details are stored online. Most government agencies have some security, but governments are always a top target for many hackers. We'd love to narrow down an example or two here, but there are just too many government hacks to list. Even those government agencies that seem small and insignificant are on some hack list.
Schools and Other Educational Institutions
Schools used to store personal details about faculty and students in filing cabinets. Those days are gone, and most information is digital. Student identification numbers, addresses, social security and health details, grades, examinations, application details -- the list of data stored by schools is massive. Your average hacker may not be interested in the information that schools safeguard, but there is a market for these details.
If a hacker gains access to an energy facility, massive power outages and drops in a country's defense system can ensue. Gaining entry to an energy facility that houses any data may be the right industry to tap to gain sensitive details about a person or project. Hackers have recently targeted pipelines in the US and Canada due to lax security.
Why Hackers Hack
There are many reasons hackers choose to steal data, but it's rarely the data these thieves want. Some information is worth a lot of money, and hackers can sell these details to buyers on the dark web, making more in a few hours than most of us make in a year. Other hackers snag data to hold it ransom.
Blackmailing individuals into purchasing their data works well for hackers that have discovered a secret or two.
It's also common for unidentified individuals to hire hackers to steal specific information, and the dark web is perfect for these types of transactions. In the end, hacks are often about money. Hackers have to have a day job, too but don't make their job easier by leaving your network open to attacks.
Your Best Defense
Regular network monitoring is the best option. We don't just say that because we sell it either. If your network isn't monitored, it's easy for hackers to gain access. That's a fact. But, if you already have some lines of defense and need additional help, check out our professional services offerings -- sometimes you need an extra hand (or many hands) on a project to help with additional security.
Either way, all of your networks must be carefully screened around-the-clock. Know whether a threat is looming, if an activity is suspicious, who is logging in and out of your network, what to do if an attack happens, and how to analyze data thoroughly to avoid future attacks. Don't make the mistake of thinking that a hacker would not be interested in your organization -- trust us, they are.
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