Your data may be on the dark web. As frightening as that sounds, it is widespread. You need to know if your data is floating around the dark web, and what you can do about it. The dark web is encrypted online data unindexed by traditional search engines and usually requires a specialized browser such as Tor. IP addresses for devices are encrypted on several levels making them virtually impossible to track on the dark web.
When you hear of significant data breaches at organizations or institutions where you have an account, it is safe to assume your information made its way to the dark web. There is no comprehensive dark web scan that can reliably identify all your data that is floating around.
The dark web attracts users who crave anonymity when doing business and has become a marketplace for illicit goods. Your data is a currency on the black market, so it is crucial to know if your information is on the dark web.
Not everything on the dark web is illegal. The dark web serves legitimate purposes, such as helping law enforcement agencies, discussion groups, investigative journalists, and others who benefit from anonymity without criminal intent. Unfortunately, the same anonymity that benefits whistleblowers and legitimate private discussions also serve as the perfect place to buy and sell hacked information.
Steps to understanding if your information is on the dark web
- The best place to start is to identify if your email was involved in any significant data breaches. An online tool, Have I been pwned, does a free search of your email address to identify its involvement in any well-known data breaches.
- Although the dark web is not technically difficult to reach, you have little chance of personally finding your data once there.
- Matchlight, created by Terbium Labs, claims to have devised web crawlers that search for personal information on the dark web and send alerts if your data appears in a search.
- Experian, the consumer credit reporting agency, offers a similar tool to monitor your information on the dark web.
Can you remove your information from the dark web?
Unfortunately, once your information makes its way to the dark web, there is nothing you can do to have it removed. The sites that deal in the exchange of such information come and go quickly and the information may be on multiple sites. Once your information is on the dark web, the smart move is to focus on limiting the amount of damage it can cause.
The following techniques will help keep you safe if your personal information is on the dark web marketplace.
- Practice basic internet safety such as changing your passwords frequently, and never using the same password on more than one site. Develop strong passwords that use a blend of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Do not store your passwords on your phone or computer.
- Check your credit report immediately and report any suspicious activity. Place an alert in your file with the consumer credit reporting agencies informing them of the compromised information. Activate alerts that will notify you when the information in your file changes.
- Limit the amount of personal information you make available on your social media platforms. LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and others can be combined to extrapolate a dangerous amount of personal information about you.
- Install security software on all your devices, including your computers, phones, and tablets.
- Do not respond to phone calls or emails requesting personal information. Your bank or credit card company will never call you and request personal information. If a call or email from a financial institution seems suspicious, refuse to answer any questions, then contact the institution yourself.
- If you know or suspect that your social security number is compromised, contact the Social Security Administration so that an alert is placed in your file. You should also contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to prevent anyone from filing a fraudulent tax return using your social security number. If the social security number is used to obtain a fraudulent loan, credit card or line of credit, request an immediate credit freeze through the consumer reporting agencies. After you initiate the credit freeze, contact the company who issued the fraudulent loan immediately to let them know that they have accepted a stolen credit card number.