The Dark Web: What Is It, and How Can You Stay Safe?

Dark Web ID

Anonymous. Private. Uncensored.

The dark web is something you often hear about, but its reality feels cloaked in fog, as though it’s too mysterious to be fully understood.

In reality, it’s a simple concept: a ”set of web pages on the World Wide Web that cannot be indexed by search engines, are not viewable in a standard Web browser, require specific means (such as specialized software or network configuration) in order to access, and use encryption to provide anonymity and privacy for users (source).”

If the internet is a bright, open street, the dark web is a locked door at the end of a shadowed alley. Enter that door, and you will find nearly anything for sale, including information.

User names, passwords, research data, personal records, trade secrets—if it has value to anyone, it’s probably on the dark web (source).

The right kind of information can be highly lucrative for a seller, and that’s the motivation: financial gain. Once the information is sold, it’s used for everything from making unauthorized purchases (i.e., via stolen credit card info) to launching cyberattacks.

  • In 2020, cybersecurity firm Cyble found over 500,000 Zoom accounts for sale on the dark web (source).
  • Again in 2020, Forbes reported that the same cybersecurity team discovered 267 million Facebook identities up for grabs. “The data included email addresses, names, Facebook IDs, dates of birth and phone numbers. All of which is a perfect set of data with which to craft a text or email phishing campaign on behalf of Facebook.” (source)
  • 2021 saw Reverb, “the largest online marketplace devoted to selling new, used, and vintage musical instruments and equipment,” experiencing a data breach that affected over 5.6 million users (source). The breach included names, emails, phone numbers, PayPal emails, and listing/order information—all of which could be used in cyberattacks. (source)

The Good ... and More of the Ugly

The dark web as an idea does have its validity, allowing for freedom of speech with no censorship. Think of an internet user living in an authoritarian country. Or a human-rights activist looking for whistleblower status. Even Wikileaks uses the dark web. (source)

The problem is that the ugly side of the dark web is really ugly, going far beyond the selling of stolen information to include drugs, weapons, pharmaceuticals, and government data (source). That’s what makes it so dangerous.

But there’s no stopping it. For as long as the internet exists, so will the dark web. It’s a yin-yang relationship.

It’s also like a hydra: cut off one of its heads, and two more will rise.

Another hard truth? Preventing your data from being sold on the dark web probably isn’t possible. Think of all your online accounts—bank, credit card, TV, shopping . . . It should be up to those companies to keep your data safe. The problem is that while some are exceptional at it, others have trouble keeping up with current security trends. Or they are just plain lazy (source).

You Are Not Powerless

There are things you can do to help keep your information safe, even if your information is compromised.

First, follow best practices for strong passwords.

Second, use a monitoring service to alert you when your information is found in places it shouldn’t be—like the dark web. Everyday users can typically turn to their credit card company or bank for monitoring (for example, Capital One offers CreditWise).

For businesses, WYRE uses Datto's EDR to support SMBs: "EDR agents collect and analyze data from endpoints and respond to threats that have appeared to bypass existing antivirus (AV) protections. [EDR] continues to analyze, detect, investigate, report and alert your security team of any potential threats," including those found on the dark web.

But WYRE doesn’t stop there. If your company’s data is ever compromised, we can walk you through the process of securing it: password changes, prevention of data loss, network protection, and company-wide security education.

The important thing to remember is that you are not powerless. Monitoring your personal information, along with intelligent computer practices, can limit the damage—or prevent it from happening all together.

Together with WYRE, you can.

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