Fraudsters’ New Frontier: The Dark Web

By Thomas Zadvydas

Once the exclusive domain of credit card thieves and fraudsters, the “Deep Web” or the related “Dark Web” is attracting a slew of startups and their venture capital backers.

A part of the Internet that is not accessible by mainstream search engines and requires specific authorization to enter, the Dark Web remains a blind spot for enterprises. A handful of cybersecurity firms now are seeking access to it to monitor the hacker communities that operate there and stay on top of emerging cyber threats, which include acts of espionage from international state actors and terrorist organizations.

“If [you] spend time in there, you begin to understand what’s happening in the hacker world. And you can in a sense be proactive to pick off emerging threats,” says Ryan J. Shaw, co-founder and CEO of Blockade Technologies, a Boca Raton, Florida-based company whose data storage platform uses blockchain technology to encrypt information and store it across several different networks.

Threats in this online netherworld are many and varied, say other sources, and could include acts of industrial espionage, says one cybersecurity attorney.

“It’s not just terrorists hanging out in the Deep and Dark Web. It’s credit card thieves, fraudsters, malware developers, hackers,” says Josh Lefkowitz, co-founder and CEO of Flashpoint, a New York-based company focused on collecting data from the Deep and Dark Web to protect its customers.

“We saw an opportunity to really address an acute pain point that was not only being felt in the public sector and government agencies, but also amongst the private sector, financial services companies, retailers, healthcare providers and law firms,” Lefkowitz said.

Companies such as Flashpoint, Intel 471 of the Netherlands, and Digital Shadows of London and San Francisco are building businesses around monitoring the Deep Web for companies. All have been receiving investment interest. Flashpoint, for example, secured a $10 million Series B funding round last July from Cisco Investments, Greycroft Partners and others.