Should Businesses Consider Using the Dark Web as a Research Tool?

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Man in dark typing on keyboard.
The dark web can be used as a tool by companies to maintain a competitive edge and optimize operations, such as protecting data against fraud.

There is little doubt that the “dark web” is perceived by the mainstream masses as the dark underbelly of the internet.

However, many don’t realize that businesses could potentially use it to their advantage as a resource.

The existence of vast troves of data residing on the dark web provides an open opportunity for industry (both public and private) to use it as a tool for market research, threat intelligence, cybercrime investigations and other potential uses.

Market Research

There are many businesses that want to gather as much data and information as possible for market research purposes.

This might include startups and companies who have realized that a certain metric or policy holds much more power than they first realized—and sometimes, it takes the right data for businesses to understand their market more, and as a result, gain market share and high revenue.

Threat Intelligence Uses

It’s a known fact that cybersecurity and threat intelligence firms use the dark web for investigatory tasks on a regular basis.

Your TOR usage is being watched

For example, Flashpoint, a business intelligence firm, has been known to scour dark web forums for their clients in order to obtain data on cybercrime operations.

While one might view this as unnecessary, consider this—even the U.S. government has hired Flashpoint.

The Internal Revenue Service paid the company through a contract to extract intelligence from the dark web.

Flashpoint has also provided U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement with access to darknet-sourced data.

It’s obvious that the dark web would have implications for law enforcement or even private investigators.

For those clients who wish to find out information about someone in a legal fashion, through a private investigator—they might use the dark web to do so as well.

Hackers with credit cards on laptops use these data for unauthorized shopping.
If a large retailer can monitor the dark web for credit card information that is on sale, they can essentially get a jump on potential fraud issues, which could save the company time and money in the long run.

Investigating Fraud & Data Theft

The dark web has immense implications for retail, as well.

If a large retailer can monitor the dark web for credit card information that is on sale, they can essentially get a jump on potential fraud issues, which could save the company time and money in the long run.

This also might be worth a look for other companies, such as high-end clothing lines, who are concerned about a resale market that they might not appreciate.

We all know that police can intervene when it comes to a robbery and could potentially locate and return the item to the victim, even if it takes some time.

There are certain situations where resellers can also check against a registry to find out whether goods are stolen or not, which helps to regulate the reselling industry, for example.

However, what happens when your information is stolen?  It’s hard to know when your identity and information is—relatively—“safe” again.

There certainly isn’t a convenient “serial number” that encapsulates all of your personal information, and data hacks are more common than ever.

Millions are affected by data breaches every year, and this year is no exception.

This has led to the rise of cybersecurity startups such as Matchlight, which markets itself as the first fully automated dark web data intelligence system, and prides itself on being an affordable service that can actionably alert its clients when specific data is found.

When you consider that the average company loses millions from a data breach, there are many who might consider using a service like this very useful.

Of course, this also applies to sensitive data.

We all know that many universities and companies contain sensitive data, whether it relates to defense or security systems, and if this information is placed on the dark web—it can not only mean financial loss for a company, but it could also present a security issue for a nation.

Business spy with briefcase.
The dark web can be a significant tool in the world of corporate espionage.

Corporate Espionage & Other Potential Considerations

Let’s not be naive either—the dark web can be a significant tool in the world of corporate espionage.

Some of the largest and most respected companies in the world have not gotten to the top using ethical practices.

Some examples of this include the fact that Jay Lee, the billionaire Samsung heir, was recently sentenced to five years in jail for bribery charges that involved the former president of South Korea.

In another example, multinational automaker Volkswagen Group was found caught up in an emissions scandal where they deliberately altered emissions control for compliance in an attempt to deceive regulatory organizations worldwide.

The dark web does provide a place for information to be shared and used, whether it’s trade secrets, insider information for stock trading, or information about a competitor.

Of course, a company shouldn’t be engaging in these practices, but should they be checking to see whether the competition is playing by different rules?

Ultimately, a business certainly doesn’t require the dark web to succeed. However, the question does begin to arise, whether it should consider using it as a tool, and how it should consider utilizing it.

Jay Carter

Jay Carter focuses on technology, business, and cryptocurrency. He is interested in how the dark web can be a force for good, and how technology will shape our future overall.
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