Dark web monitoring seems to be a hot buzzword in discussions about cyberthreat intelligence (CTI) and how it helps cybersecurity strategy and operations. Indeed, dark web monitoring enables a better understanding of an attacker’s perspective and following their activities on dark web forums can have a great impact on cybersecurity readiness and
posture.

Accurate and timely knowledge of attackers’ locations, tools and plans helps analysts anticipate and mitigate targeted threats, reduce risk and enhance security resilience. So why isn’t dark web monitoring enough? The answer lies in both coverage and context.

When we talk about visibility beyond the organization, one needs to make sure the different layers of the web are covered. Adversaries are everywhere, and vital information can be discovered in any layer of the web. In addition, dark web monitoring alone provides threat intelligence that is siloed and out of context. In order to make informed and accurate
decisions, a CTI plan has to be both targeted, based on an organization’s needs and comprehensive, with extensive source coverage to support diverse use cases.

Be Wherever Adversaries Are

The internet as we know it is actually the open web, or the surface web. This is the top, exposed, public layer where organizations rarely look for CTI. The other layers are the deep web and the dark web, on which some sites are accessed through the Tor browser. Monitoring the deep/dark web is the most common source of CTI. However, to ensure complete visibility beyond the organization and optimal coverage for gathering CTI, all layers of the web should be monitored. Monitoring the dark web alone leaves an organization pretty much, well, in the dark.

The Shadow Brokers is a great example of why it is important to monitor more than just the dark web. In 2016, the Shadow Brokers published several hacking tools, including many zero-day exploits, from the “Equation Group,” which is considered to be tied to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The exploits and vulnerabilities mostly targeted enterprise firewalls, antivirus software and Microsoft products. The initial publication of the leak was through the group’s Twitter account on August 13, 2016, and the references and instructions for obtaining and decrypting the tools and exploits were published on GitHub and Pastebin, both publicly accessible.

The WannaCry ransomware attack in May 2017 was also first revealed on Twitter, as were different reports on the attack.
Coverage of all layers of the web is necessary, yet even with expanded monitoring of additional layers of the web, an organization’s external threat intelligence picture remains incomplete and one-dimensional. There are additional threat intelligence sources to cover in order to get a complete threat intelligence view that is optimized for the needs of an
organization. These include:

Online Data Sources

Dark Web: Cicada 3301

Dark Web: Cicada 3301