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The Risk of Employee Password Theft and How You Can Prevent It

Two hands typing on a laptop keyboard.

It seems like businesses are practically living in the digital world these days. But you know what? There's a dark side to this—literally. It's called the dark web, and it's like an underworld marketplace where stolen passwords are sold to the highest bidder. Believe it or not, over 15 billion stolen passwords are floating around on the dark web. That's a huge threat to businesses of all sizes, including yours.

So, let's talk about why these stolen passwords on the dark web could spell trouble for your business and how you can shield yourself from this growing menace.


What's the deal with "stolen passwords"?

When we say "stolen passwords," we're talking about login details, like usernames and passwords, that have been swiped without permission by some sneaky cybercriminal. Once they get their hands on these details, they can impersonate you or your employees and access information or systems they have no business being in.

It's super important to keep a close watch on and protect these login details because they pose a major security risk to individuals and companies alike. If these details wind up in the wrong hands, it can lead to data leaks and a slew of cyberattacks, like phishing and malware infections.


Why are Stolen Passwords on the Dark Web a Big Deal?

Here's the thing—the dark web is a hidden part of the internet that can't be found through normal search engines. You need special software or settings just to access it. And it's notorious for illegal activities, like selling stolen data and passwords. Let's look at why these stolen passwords on the dark web are such a hot commodity.


Access to Confidential Information

Stolen passwords can give cybercriminals a free pass to confidential information, like personal data, financial records, and company secrets. They can use this info for identity theft, financial fraud, or corporate espionage.


Access to Systems and Networks

With the right stolen passwords, cybercriminals can sneak into systems and networks they're not supposed to be in. This access can be used to pilfer data, plant malware, or cause other kinds of damage.


Aiding More Attacks

Stolen passwords can pave the way for more attacks, like phishing or brute force attacks. Cybercriminals can use these stolen passwords to infiltrate other systems or networks that may have even more valuable information or weaker security.


High Demand on the Dark Web

Stolen passwords are highly sought after on the dark web because they provide an easy and low-risk way for cybercriminals to access sensitive data and systems. Depending on the type of password and the access it provides, prices can vary.


Long-Term Value

Unlike other types of stolen data, stolen passwords can retain their value over time. For instance, if a person uses the same password for multiple accounts, a cybercriminal with a stolen password could potentially access many accounts.


Stolen Passwords lead to cyber attacks

Once cybercriminals have got their hands on stolen passwords and other user credentials, there are quite a few attacks that can be launched.


Phishing Attacks

These attacks trick workers into handing over their login details through a fake login page or email. Once a cybercriminal has these details, they can access company data.


Credential Stuffing Attacks

In these attacks, cybercriminals use automated tools to rapidly enter stolen usernames and passwords into login pages of targeted websites and applications, hoping to gain access to user accounts.


Social Engineering Attacks

This type of attack involves fooling a worker into giving up their login details through psychological manipulation. It could involve pretending to be a superior, creating a sense of urgency, or using other tactics to win the worker's trust.


Brute-Force Attacks

These attacks involve using software to continuously guess a worker's login details until the right combination is found. This can work if the worker's password is weak or easy to guess.


Remote Access Attacks

If a worker's login details are stolen, a cybercriminal can use them to remotely access company systems and data. This can be quite risky if the worker has access to crucial systems or infrastructure.


To protect against stolen worker passwords, companies should consider implementing measures like two-factor authentication, providing cybersecurity training to workers, and regularly monitoring for suspicious activity.


What kind of threats arise from stolen passwords?

Financial Loss

Just imagine this—cybercriminals get their hands on an employee's login details and start making unauthorized purchases or transferring funds out of your company accounts. That's a quick way to see your profits plunge down the drain.


Damage to Reputation

If your company suffers a data breach or financial loss because of stolen employee credentials, it's more than just an internal problem. This kind of news gets around, and it can seriously tarnish your company's reputation. That means lost customer trust and fewer business opportunities.


Legal and Regulatory Penalties

If someone steals an employee's password and causes a data breach, it can lead to serious legal trouble. The Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) scheme requires companies to inform people if their personal data is compromised in a way that could seriously harm them. Moreover, if an employee deliberately causes a data breach or steals data, they could violate section 308H of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which makes unauthorized access or modification of restricted computer data illegal. The Privacy Legislation Amendment (Enforcement and Other Measures) Bill 2022 has made the consequences of serious or repeated privacy breaches much steeper in Australia. Previously, the highest penalty was $2.22 million, but now it can be as much as $50 million, three times the worth of any advantage gained through the misuse of data, or 30% of a company's turnover in the relevant period, depending on which is the most


Loss of Customer Trust

When customers hear about a data breach, they may start to question whether their personal information is safe with you. They might think that you've mishandled their data or didn't take enough steps to protect it. And that can lead to a major loss of customer trust.


Can We Do Anything to Prevent or Mitigate These Risks?

Absolutely, yes! Protecting your business data is key to keeping sensitive information confidential and out of the wrong hands. Here are some steps you can take to keep your business data safe:

  • Implement password strength requirements: Enforcing a policy that requires strong passwords is the first line of defence against unauthorized access. This includes using a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. It's also important to encourage users to avoid common words and phrases that could be easily guessed.

  • Implement multi-factor authentication: Multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds an additional layer of security by requiring users to provide two or more verification factors to gain access to a resource such as an application or online account. MFA could involve something the user knows (like a password), something the user has (like a security token or mobile device), or something the user is (like a fingerprint).

  • Train users on how to strengthen and protect their passwords: Education is key when it comes to password security. Users should be trained on how to create strong passwords, the importance of not reusing passwords across multiple sites, and the need to change passwords regularly. They should also be made aware of the dangers of phishing attacks and how to identify and avoid them.

  • Identify Your Sensitive Data: First off, you need to figure out what types of data are most important to your business. This could be anything from financial records and customer data to trade secrets.

  • Implement Access Controls: Next, use access controls to limit who can get their hands on sensitive data. You can set access levels based on job roles or responsibilities—like maybe only folks in the finance department need to access financial data.

  • Monitor Data Access: Keep a regular eye on who is accessing your sensitive data and when they're doing it. This can help you spot any suspicious access and take action to prevent data breaches.

  • Keep Software Up-to-Date: Don't forget to keep your software and operating systems up-to-date with the latest security patches and updates. This ensures that any security gaps are covered.

  • Implement Data Backup Procedures: Make sure to regularly back up your sensitive data to a secure off-site location. This can prevent data loss in case of breaches.

  • Use a Dark Web Monitoring Service: A dark web monitoring service can be a real game-changer. It can detect potential data breaches early on, alert you if sensitive information pops up on the dark web, and continuously scan the dark web for any mention of your business's information. This helps you stay one step ahead of threats.


Concerned about the implications of compromised credentials?

If you're worried that you may already have employee details leaked on the dark web, we can help you uncover this information via a Human Risk report. Get in touch below to access your free report.