The Dark Web – Your Credit and Identity for Sale

Most of us are very familiar with the internet and search engines, such as Google, Firefox, or Bing. But did you know that most of us only have access to around 4% of the ‘safe’ content found on what is the commonly called the surface web or clear net? The other 96% of web content is buried in what’s called the deep web, also called the dark web.

The deep web, which is different from the dark web is also called the invisible or hidden web. It’s the part of the world wide web that is not discoverable by standard search engines. Search engines only lead to websites on the surface web. The deep web accounts for 90% of all internet content, which is generally hidden behind secure systems. For example, we may use the deep web when we retrieve business reports, scientific information, organizational data, medical records and so on. These types of documents and data are protected behind secure servers, firewalls, and heavy login requirements.

The dark web, while often referenced on modern-day crime-based TV shows and action movies, is still a very new concept for many people. It’s a technology created by the military in the 1990’s to allow intelligence operatives to exchange information with complete anonymity. The dark web-only accounts for around 6% of all web content and is only accessible through special software. Once inside, the websites can be accessed through a browser in the same way we are all accustomed to browsing the internet. However, some sites are hidden from the search engines and can only be accessed if you know the exact address of the site. Today, the dark web consists primarily for sites that service illegal information, terrorist activity, secret communications, and TOR encrypted sites. Special markets also exist in this realm, and they’re called darknet markets.  These markets primarily deal with illegal products like drugs and firearms that are paid for with crypto (Bitcoin) currency. If it’s illegal, its likely found here.

“The big concern is that stolen data is like a bomb that is ready to go off. It can be sold and resold on the dark web.”

So, how does this invisible internet world impact you?

50% of the U.S. population was impacted by a cyber-attack. Chances are, if you ask around, you will know someone who was affected. The big concern is that the stolen data is like a bomb ready to go off. It can be sold and resold on the dark web to entities that will use your information for a variety of purposes such as filing a tax return, opening fraudulent credit, or building an identity database on you and your family. The problems could pop up days, months or years after the data breach.

What can I do about it?

It seems many consumers are just giving up or ignoring the problem until it directly affects them. But this just increases the likelihood that you might be affected more heavily because early signs of tampering were not detected and handled.  There are simple things you can do to protect yourself. Some may seem cliché, but they really do give you some control.

1. DON’T try to go to the dark web

Unless you know what you’re doing, you can be putting yourself and the information stored in your computer on a platter!

2. Automated credit and dark web monitoring

Let’s be real. Nobody has time to monitor their identity and credit over the entire internet for unusual or suspicious activity. But that level of tracking is necessary in today’s modern digital world. Enroll in a service that will automatically monitor your information and the dark web for you. Dark web monitoring can alert you when your personal information is being traded online by identity thieves. If an event occurs, IdentityIQ offers member website information and agent guidance to help you if an event occurs.

3. Credit report review

Credit monitoring is critical, but it does not notify you of every possible change to your credit report. You should review your three bureau reports from TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax, at least every quarter (monthly, if you are at high risk). It takes minutes and is a great opportunity to scan for anything unusual.

4. Computer protection

Buy and maintain your computer anti-virus and malware software. Also, set your computer to automatically update the operating system. This is an important setting because many updates include security patches to protect your computer from the latest threats.

5. Web and physical security

Be careful about what you look at or divulge online when using public wifi. They are easy to hack, and anyone connected can see your online activity if they are also connected. Before entering sensitive personal information into online forms, look for a padlock icon on your browser address bar before the “https://”. This indicates you are on a secure website. Finally, always shield your hand when entering a PIN in public places and at ATMs. Video surveillance can monitor you almost anywhere, and video camera lenses can be the size of a pin!

Even though you may be on the internet every day and have not yet had to deal with identity theft, the risk is always present. The dark web and deep web are tools used to protect as well as exploit personal information. Taking the steps listed here will help to protect your information as well as the information of those who are close you.

© 2018 IdentityIQ, LLC

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