The Dark Web & Your Data: Facts to Know
Stolen data is one of the largest commodities traded on the Internet, and the “dark web” is a place where this occurs. Your personal information, such as credit card numbers and email logins, can be easily sold to the highest bidder on the dark web. Understanding this digital black market can help you keep your data safe.
What Is the Dark Web?
The dark web consists of websites where the IP addresses (unique numbers that identify computers) are encrypted, or hidden on multiple levels. Encrypting data means it’s manipulated into gibberish, so that it’s virtually worthless without the code that would turn it back to its original format.
Certain software programs allow the IP address to be hidden, which provides anonymity as to where, or by whom, the site is hosted. The anonymous nature of the dark web makes it a haven for online criminals selling illegal products and services, as well as a marketplace for stolen data.
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The dark web is often confused with the “deep web,” the latter of which makes up about 90 percent of the Internet. The deep web consists of sites not reachable by standard search engines, including encrypted networks or password-protected sites like email accounts.
Dark Web Data Marketplace
While data such as stolen credit card numbers, Social Security numbers and bank accounts go for big money in the depths of cyberspace, any type of account that grants access to your personal information is fair game, including email, Skype, Facebook and the like. The more information a hacker can obtain about you, the greater the payoff will be.
For example, a random credit card number with the CVV code from the U.S may sell on the dark web for $5 to $8. However, data that includes — card number, bank identification number (BIN), date of birth, address and other relevant information — could go for $30 each. The price gets even higher if the credit card originated in the EU.
Protect with Passwords
Being password-smart is one of the most effective ways to stay secure. With so many sites requiring passwords, it’s common to use the same word or combination of words for your email, social media and financial accounts. However, this practice can leave you vulnerable; if one account is hacked, then all of your personal information is at risk.
Best password practices include using phrases or a combination of words rather than just one word. Change your passwords monthly. The longer a password is in use, the more vulnerable it is to being hacked.
Take extra steps such as enabling the privacy settings on social media accounts to secure your information. Also, antivirus software isn’t just for your computer; use it on your phone and tablet to keep your mobile devices safe.
After a Data Breach
Taking immediate steps can help to minimize the damage if your data has been stolen. Notify your credit card companies immediately and all financial institutions; the bank can freeze your accounts and help prevent them from being drained.
Cancel your credit cards right away if the bank doesn’t do so automatically. Monitor financial and online accounts for suspicious activity. Your email or Facebook accounts, for example, may have also been compromised. Change your passwords across the board. Additionally, keep an eye on your credit reports to ensure that your credit is not being affected by fraudulent activity.