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  • Writer's pictureBurton Kelso, Tech Expert

How Can Criminals Use The Dark Web to Steal My Information?

Since the pandemic started in 2020, there have been a record-breaking number of data hacks. while there have been a few instances of insider cyber theft and good old fashion data breaches, many of the cyber thefts that have occurred can be traced to the dark web. The dark web is the underbelly of the internet where a lot of criminal activity like human trafficking, drug dealing, and the exchange of your personal data takes place. How does your information wind up on the Dark Web? Well, check out these quick tips that will help you find out how your information winds up there and what you can do to protect yourself.

The dark web has been around quite a while and has stayed under the radar for quite a while. If you want to picture where the dark web fits in in the grand scheme of the internet, think of the structure of an iceberg. Most of you are only familiar with what I will call the Surface Web. Like the tip of an iceberg, it's the portion that's visible. Sites like your email, streaming services, cloud services, and your favorite websites exist there. Believe it or not, your popular sites only take up about 4% of the Internet. Beneath the waves are the deep web and the dark web. The Deep Web makes up about 90% of the Internet and isn't accessible by the average person. This is where much government, academic, and medical information is stored. At the bottom taking up the remaining 6% of the Internet, is the dark web. Information on the Dark Web isn't indexed but can be accessed by using web browsers like Tor making it easy for any criminal to search and find countless data about you, your family, and friends.

How Do Criminals Get My Information from the Dark Web? The primary items that hackers look for on the dark web are called "Fullz". This stands for "full package" and it refers to your personal information. It's a collection of your name, social security number, birth date, banking, and credit card numbers as well as other data that can be used to steal your identity.

How Does My Information End Up On the Dark Web? The primary method of your information showing up on the dark web is from large-scale data breaches. Information targeted in those breaches is usually, customer and employee data, your email, phone numbers social security numbers, and more such as classified company data to get access to corporate sites and employees. When criminals get their hands on this information they either sell it to the highest bidder or they use the information to get access to your online accounts or trick you into giving up your personal information in the form of phishing, vishing, and SMShing scams.

What's on the internet and the dark web is there forever, which means once your information has been leaked, there’s virtually nothing that you can do about it. That’s why it’s essential to focus on taking preventative measures to mitigate security threats before there’s a problem. With this in mind, it pays to be proactive using the following methods:

1. Find out what information is lurking on the dark web. The website 'haveibeenpwned' can help you find out if your information was leaked in a large-scale data breach. If you visit the website and find out you have been "pwned", make sure you change your passwords to your online accounts.

2. Password managers can help you monitor as well. Password managers not only help keep track of all those complicated passwords, but they also monitor the dark web to see if any of the passwords you're using have appeared on the dark web. It's useful because criminals don't always act immediately if they get your information. There are password managers such as LastPass and 1Password that will keep track of your stuff, but you can also save your password in your favorite browser such as Edge, Safari, Chrome,

3. ID Theft software plays a big role in helping you stay safe. If you find yourself in a situation where your information such as social security numbers, addresses, and full names leaked on the dark web, you should make the investment. in ID theft software. When criminals get access to this type of information, it can allow them to take out a loan or open a credit card in your name, receive your tax refund or medical treatment they didn't pay for, and damage your finances, credit score, and reputation. There are a lot of companies like LifeLock that can help guard your identity and finances from scams and hackers, as well as assist you if you have become a victim of identity theft.

Ignoring cyberthreats and postponing preventive action is no longer an option. It doesn't matter what your financial situation is, you are being targeted by dark web hackers looking to capitalize on your personal information. I hope you can use these tips to prevent your information from being stolen by hackers. If you need further assistance, please reach out to me with any questions you might have. I am always happy to help!

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