An investigation by a Darlington IT firm has found thousands of pieces of potentially damaging information connected to the region’s councils and universities available for sale to criminals operating on the dark web.

Bondgate IT praised ongoing efforts to tackle the growing threat of cybercrime – but warned that the danger posed by the dark web is growing stronger.

Garry Brown, managing director of the Darlington-based technology experts, said that using its specialist monitoring service, it found that over 15,000 compromised items originating from nine local authorities in the North East and North Yorkshire are for sale to cyber criminals on the dark web. The total figure for the region’s universities stood above 13,000.

Garry said: “Local authorities and universities across the region have taken tremendous strides in updating their IT security, educating staff, and reducing the threat posed by ransomware.

“But the increasing amount of data being offered for sale on the dark web highlights the need for ongoing vigilance when it comes to IT.”

“Information listed for sale on the dark web has the potential to bring down entire IT systems and cost organisations millions of pounds. The danger is that a hacker accesses a staff member’s email and their contacts. It is then easy to steal their identity and gain commercial insights."