Cyberspace is a complex system with infinite potential for expansion. As its importance continues to grow, global organizations face threats that can cost them billions while compromising their network security and business reputation. Threat intelligence is a vital strategy that prevents attacks, and web scraping is essential to its success.
The Internet is much deeper and broader than most people realize. Most users browse the easily accessible pages of the “surface web” (about 10% of internet space) while completely ignoring the “deep” and “dark” web where the majority of data lives.
The terms “dark web” and “deep web” tend to be used interchangeably; however, they are fundamentally different. While both are hidden from the public and inaccessible with standard search engines, the content of each varies widely.
According to a report by Dr Gareth Owen of the University of Portsmouth, the majority of content on the dark web includes illegal activity. In contrast, most deep web content is legal and hidden behind password-protected login forms, including online banking, social media profile pages, streaming entertainment, and webmail. Since the Deep Web is a repository of valuable financial, government and personal data, it is most often targeted by organized crime, estimated at 80%, according to a recent Verizon report.
The majority of cybersecurity attacks are data-related, with the ultimate goal of gaining financial compensation. The most common types include:
Data breaches are security breaches where cybercriminals view, copy, use, transmit and/or sell data. Trade and health are the most targeted industries, according to Statista.
Phishing is a technique that uses emails to obtain sensitive data from unsuspecting users.
Social engineering is a set of psychological manipulation tactics that coerce individuals into revealing confidential data. Examples include:
- Baiting – the use of a false promise to trick a victim into stealing personal and financial information
- Scareware – a type of malware that uses pop-up ads and other techniques to coerce users into downloading malware
- Pretexting – a technique where an attacker lures a victim into a vulnerable situation with the aim of tricking them into giving up private information
Malware is software deployed covertly in devices, servers, and networks to access data, disrupt services, or compromise system operation.
Ransomware is malicious software deployed on a machine that threatens to cause harm unless a user pays a fee. Examples include blocking access to critical data, compromising system operation, and releasing personal information.
Cyberattacks are a growing problem
As more companies place their databases on the deep web, cybersecurity threats continue to grow. According to sources quoted in a recent Oxylabs Threat Intelligence Report:
- 36 billion records were exposed via data breaches at the end of Q3 2020.
- The global information security market is expected to reach $170.4 billion by 2022.
- 55% of business leaders planned to increase cybersecurity budgets in 2021.
In addition to compromising security and taking systems out of service, cybercrime directly reduces business profitability. According to a IBM Reportthe average cost of a data breach is $3.92 million at $150 per record, with an average size of 25,575 lost records per incident.
Many factors contribute to security vulnerabilities that lead to data breaches. According to IBMthe five most common include cloud migration, third-party involvement, system complexity, compliance failures, and operational technology issues.
Threat Intelligence is key to reversing this trend by helping organizations obtain data to use in security strategies. In addition to ensuring that adequate security measures are in place, threat intelligence helps professionals to:
- Understand the methods and objectives of cybercriminals;
- Train security teams; and
- Build tools and systems that protect data and prevent future attacks.
Cyber Threat Intelligence addresses cybercrime with information and skills that identify, minimize, and manage cyberattacks. This information is generally collected at all levels of the web, including forums and darknet websites.
Quality, up-to-date and relevant information is essential to the success of cybersecurity strategies. To get high-level information, cyber security experts use web scraping to crawl the web and extract information from target websites.
The web scraping process consists of three main steps which include:
- Sending data requests to the server of the target website;
- Extract and analyze data in an easily readable format; and
- Data analysis.
Cybercriminals try to evade detection by identifying the servers of cybersecurity companies and blocking their IP addresses. To resolve this problem, datacenter and residential proxies are used to maintain anonymity, avoid geolocation restrictions, and balance server requests to avoid bans.
Threat intelligence strategies generally consist of a process or cycle with stages that include:
Planning and direction
The first step is to determine what data needs to be protected and set goals for the information needed to minimize threats and prevent attacks. In addition, an analysis is performed to identify potential impacts and describe remediation efforts.
Data collection and processing
Once the scope of the project is defined, data is extracted via web scraping from websites, news, blogs, forums and all other relevant locations. Additionally, some closed sources can be identified and infiltrated on the dark web.
After the web scraping process, analysts review the collected data to determine potential threats and their source.
Collected data and analytics are delivered to organizations through distribution channels. Some cybersecurity companies create threat intelligence platforms or feeds that provide real-time information.
Following the implementation of the plan, the results are recorded and feedback is sent to refine the strategy.
Andrius Palionis is Vice President of Enterprise Sales at Oxylabs.io.