What You Need to Know About the Dark Web to Keep Your Identity Safe

You probably know that the dark web is where criminals sell illegal goods. It’s easy to assume that the dark web isn’t a place normal law-abiding consumers need to worry about. But this is not true. To keep your identity and other financial information safe and protected, it’s important to understand the dark web.

What is the dark web?

The dark web isn’t a place you can accidentally stumble upon. You must purposely download the Tor browser and, using it, go to a page ending with .onion instead of .com or other common extensions. While it has existed for many years, activity has recently increased because bitcoin now allows monetary transactions to happen anonymously.

Many people use the terms “dark web” and “deep web” interchangeably, which is incorrect. The deep web refers to all the data that is stored behind a firewall — such as company intranets, sites only accessible with a password and databases. The dark web, however, is actually a subset of the deep web. 

Just because someone is active on the dark web does not mean they are taking part in illegal activities. Many people use it for free speech, especially in countries where people cannot legally get online or eavesdropping is common. Other uses include talking about current events, buying rare books and whistleblowing. You could even find things you would never expect, such as a book on origami and a set of parrots.

How to protect your identity from landing on the dark web

The dark web is full of personal information for sale, such as credit cards, passwords and even social security numbers. After a data breach, criminals typically sell the stolen data on the dark web. As of March 2018, passwords for a bank account sell for an average of $160.15 and an Uber account password for $7. A hacker who steals an entire identity can typically earn about $1,200 on the dark web for that information. 

Other criminals purchase the personal information and use it to commit fraud such as identity theft. If your SSN is found on the dark web, it doesn’t mean that it’s been sold yet, just that it is available for purchase.  However, when your information is put on the dark web, many different thieves may be able to copy it and you cannot successfully get it off the dark web.

Instead, you should focus on prevention and securing your identity. Make sure to use strong passwords, which means they should be long and weird but not necessarily hard to remember, to prevent your information from being stolen. If you are part of a data breach, consider freezing your credit as a precaution. In case your information is sold, you want to catch any identity theft in the early stages. The best defense is monitoring your credit report regularly and quickly reporting any questionable activity.