By Linda Cartwright
Businesses are jumping through the hoops to make themselves visible and the key to visibility is the search engine. If Google and Yahoo love you, then you will get all the attention, the traffic, and the customers. You will still get your share of those if search engines at least know that you exist and crawl your pages.
The Dark Web, however, is the deepest layer of the Internet and its entire point is in being hidden and not accessible through the default route most of us take – the search bar. Out of billions of internet users, only 3% access Dark Web on the daily basis. If you are a business owner, you may think, “Why even bother?” However, you may yield your share of profits if you harness the power of Dark Web.
Deep Dark Web?
First, you should understand the difference between the Dark Web and the Deep Web. They seem similar at first glance since both are inaccessible through the web search and require either clicking a direct link to the page you want to access or to typing the address into the browser.
The Deep Web, however, is quite mundane and ubiquitous. Articles protected by the paywall, personal accounts of users on otherwise open sites, social media, sites that require registration to view the content, college and corporate intranets, timed online tests, paid classes, book clubs, fan forums, survivalist groups – they all live in the Deep and are legal and easy to access, just not open for indexing. They are, so to speak, hidden behind the door, which requires your personal key.
Dark Web, in contrast, requires particular internet savviness to access. There are steps you should take not only to enter this darker subset of unindexed content but also to protect your identity and maintain anonymity. Specialized tools such as Tor are usually employed to mask your location, IP (Internet Protocol) address and identity. Dark Web is notorious for its popularity among buyers and sellers of illegal substances, immoral services, illicit weapons, and stolen data. However, this is just a segment of the Dark Web. Many users choose to go “in the shadows” for reasons of cybersecurity, anonymity, and sometimes even personal safety (for example, political protesters who are residents of oppressive regimes).
When you are mapping your strategy and deciding how you are going to accomplish your goals, you need huge amounts of data. The sources you should check and data you should take into account and balance between each other make a long list, but one of the things you certainly should do is extrapolating data you can get by tracking the pulse of the Dark Web.
Of course, details depend on your industry – media, health care, finances, but it is a great intelligence opportunity, particularly for businesses dealing with sensitive, important and complex negotiations. The secret is not to stop at the obvious things and go deeper. Of course, to make meaning of all that is happening on the Dark Web you will want to employ big data analysis, yet it can provide you with some surprising patterns.
For businesses dealing with sensitive information, cybersecurity is paramount. Therefore, information leaked to the Dark Web can be a disaster. On the other hand, knowing which of company’s information is available there and how it got there can be very helpful in security checks and investigations. By knowing how exactly hackers compromised the crawl, you know the vulnerabilities and breaches in your system and therefore, you can fill in the blanks in your security strategy and know what to fix. Forewarned is forearmed.
As mentioned above, the entire point of Deep Web and its Dark sector, in particular, is in anonymity. However, it is full to the brim with personal data that are for sale. This is morally ambiguous, yet you can access this data for in-depth background checks on your employees. Companies already do a lot of discreet social media sleuthing on employees and candidates, which is not exactly the surface web search. Also, people leave traces of their illicit activity in the Dark Web which you can follow to gain some information to your advantage. For instance, you would not want to hire someone who happens to have bought their college diploma or their passport online a week ago.
Many people perceive Dark Web as rough and tough territory akin to Wild West. However, you will be surprised to find that this free evolution has created very good service with many customer-friendly features. Surface Web businesses, even giants like Amazon and eBay, could borrow a page or two from a Dark Web vendor’s book. Sometimes wading deep into the Dark Web can give you more than benchmarking your surface competitors, as the dark market evolves at a faster pace. It is a free entrepreneurship in its purest form – it is regulated by nothing except laws of the market. To find themselves on top, businesses in the Dark Web should step their game up and please customers, giving them the guarantees, the bonuses, and good service, plain and simple.
Linda Cartwright is a freelancing digital nomad based in Seattle. She blogs and teaches creative writing. As a strong believer in life-long learning, she actively participates in educational initiatives that provide editing, proofreading, and other paper help for students of all ages.Twitter: @lindalicart