Data breaches are extraordinarily costly for businesses that experience them, both concerning reputational damage and money spent to repair the issues associated with those fiascos. And, on the consumer side of things, the scary thing is hackers don’t just steal data for notoriety. They do it to profit, typically by selling the snatched details online.
But, then, are other businesses aware of times when the data they just bought might have been stolen instead of legally obtained?
There was a time when venturing into the world of the online black market typically meant downloading encryption software that hid the identity of users. However, most black market transactions happen on the “open” web so that it’s possible to access the respective sites via browsers like Firefox and Chrome without downloading special software first.
That means business representatives aren’t safe from coming across stolen data if they decide only to browse the internet normally. However, the kind of information advertised on the open web should be enough to raise eyebrows by itself. It often contains credit card information or sensitive medical details — not merely names, email addresses or phone numbers.
Companies can reduce the chances of unknowingly benefiting from stolen data by not proceeding with purchases if they contain private, not readily obtainable details.
Even when people seek to profit by peddling stolen data, their desire to make money typically isn’t stronger than their need to remain anonymous. Most criminals who deal with data from illegal sources don’t reveal their names even when seeking payment. They’ll often request money through means that allow keeping their identities secret, such as Bitcoin.
If companies encounter data sellers that stay very secretive about how they get their data and whether it is in compliance with data protection and sharing standards, those are red flags.
However, even when data providers do list information about how they obtain data, it’s a good idea to validate the data on your own. For example, if you get calling data from a third-party provider, you should always check it against current Do Not Call lists.
As mentioned above, stolen data frequently works its way through the open web rather than the dark web. However, it’s still advisable for companies to utilize monitoring services that search the dark web for stolen data. The market for such information is lucrative, and some clients pay as much as $150,000 annually for such screening measures. If businesses provide data that comes up as originating from the dark web, that’s a strong indicator that it came from unethical sources.
It’s difficult to quantify how many reputable companies might be purchasing stolen data. If they do it knowingly, such a practice breaks the law. And, even if it happens without their knowledge, that’s still a poor reflection on those responsible. It means they didn’t carefully check data sources and sellers before going through with a purchase.
Unfortunately, analysts believe it happens frequently. After data breaches occur, some of the affected companies discover their data being sold online and buy it back. When hackers realize even those who initially had the data seized will pay for it, they realize there’s a demand for their criminal actions.
After suffering data breaches, some companies even ask their own employees to find stolen data and buy it back.
Most use intermediary parties, though representatives at major companies, including PayPal, acknowledge that this process of compensating hackers for the data they took occurs regularly. They say it’s part of the various actions that happen to protect customers — or to prevent them from knowing breaches happened at all.
If companies can find and recover their stolen data quickly enough, customers might never realize hackers had their details. That’s especially likely, since affected parties often don’t hear about breaches until months after companies do, giving those entities ample time to locate data and offer hackers a price for it.
Plus, it’s important to remember that companies pay tens of thousands of dollars to recover their data after ransomware attacks, too.
When companies buy data that’s new to them, they should engage in the preventative measures above to verify its sources and check that it’s not stolen. Also, although businesses justify buying compromised data back from hackers, they have to remember that by doing so, they are stimulating demand — and that makes them partially to blame.
Instead of spending money to retrieve data that hackers take, those dollars would be better spent cracking down on the vulnerabilities that allow breaches to happen so frequently.
(Security Affairs – stolan data, data breach)