Unmasking the Dark Web With Secure Web Gateways

Unmasking the Dark Web With Secure Web Gateways

As workplaces shift towards remote settings, a secure web gateway is essential for businesses to prevent cyberattacks and data breaches. These gateways work in line, inspecting internet traffic and blocking hazardous websites. A gateway can be hardware or software deployed on-premises, in the cloud as a SaaS application, or remotely at the network perimeter. All incoming data must pass through the gateway for inspection, just like a security checkpoint in an airport.


Ransomware attacks have become standard for cybercriminals to extract money from businesses. In 2023, the X-Force Threat Intelligence Index found that ransomware accounted for 4 percent of all cybersecurity incidents. Hackers often exploit operating system and software vulnerabilities to inject ransomware into systems. These flaws often include zero-day vulnerabilities, either unknown to the security community or have been identified but not patched. A secure web gateway protects organizations against cyberattacks by acting as a checkpoint to inspect and analyze incoming web traffic. Some SWGs are software only, and others consist of hardware appliances or virtual machines that run in the cloud. As web traffic passes through the gateway, it is inspected in real-time for suspicious or malicious content, including malware, viruses, spyware, and other threats. A good SWG will also prevent data leakage by identifying and preventing sensitive information from leaving the network. Some SWGs use URL filtering to sift through incoming network traffic and check it against databases of dangerous websites. These technologies can keep malware at bay by blocking access to sites that host phishing or ransomware code. They can also detect malware by emulating the environment in which the payload is downloaded, which allows them to stop malicious programs from running on the system and steal user data.

Hacking Communities

The Internet is massive, with millions of websites and databases running 24 hours a day. The “visible” Internet, known as the surface web, is a sea of pages indexed by search engines and can be easily navigated by anyone with access to a regular computer and a standard browser. However, the dark web contains a hidden collection of Internet sites accessible only using a specialized web browser that provides anonymity. It is home to criminal communities that conduct a wide range of illicit activities, including hacking. The underground cyber marketplace offers everything from hacked data to malicious software and services for conducting DDoS attacks, ransomware, and other crimes. These activities can disrupt an organization’s operations, damage its reputation, and lead to costly long-term damage. It is no wonder that the dark web is a bustling economy. These underground markets are populated by hackers who range in skill and motives. Many hackers are part of covert collectives united by a standard methodology or goal.

The Sale of Stolen Data

When hackers gain access to sensitive information on networks and computers, they often sell it in bulk on Deep Web marketplaces. Some of the most sought-after data include credit card information, health records, website login credentials, and passwords. Cybercriminals can steal data through ransomware, social engineering, or remotely bypassing network security. They can also cause a data breach by losing or mishandling physical files and through human error, such as sending sensitive information to the wrong person or leaving a computer open without password restrictions. A cyberattack might expose personal information online, or hackers might blackmail a company and threaten to publish confidential information. The destinations for stolen data vary depending on who is behind the attack. Hackers who are trying to make money typically resell the data. They may also use it for espionage. 

Cyber Espionage

Cyber espionage, or state-sponsored hacking, is one of the most severe and costly threats to modern-day business. Cyber spies can steal consumer information, including account numbers or passwords, and the digital infrastructure businesses depend on to function. They can also gain access to sensitive, proprietary data from competitors. These attacks are mainly covert, as the attackers seek to extract data without notice. They often target companies that manufacture or use advanced technologies, like weapons systems, power plants, and financial services. They may also seek to gather data from foreign governments and international political opponents or dissidents. In addition to stealing data, cyber spies can infect computers with malware, take screenshots, record audio, capture keystrokes, and collect other system information. Secure gateways can help stop cyber spies by combining multiple security barriers. These include URL filtering, malicious code detection, and application controls. In addition, they can limit the use of Universal Serial Bus (USB) devices and encrypt files, which helps prevent data leakage. Many SWGs also feature sandboxing, which tests potential malware in a controlled environment to see how it behaves before blocking it from the network. This allows for greater granularity and more effective protection, especially for remote workers. A secure web gateway is essential for protecting against the threats presented by hackers, other cybercriminals, and those that a nation-state actor can conduct.

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