It has been reported severally that the dark web provides enough anonymity for its users making criminals take advantage to upload and sell personally identifiable information obtained from breaches. This being the reason, a huge number of data breaches and ransomware attacks have been prominent all throughout the past couple of years. Thus, it becomes very crucial to go through regular dark web scan or dark web monitoring procedures so that you can keep up with the identities or information on the dark web.
In 2019 alone, millions of data breaches have been recorded with so many people at risk of identity theft. Since we understand that the darknet is a very big place with many markets spread across, it is very difficult or almost impossible to manually check through each forum or market in a bid to find out if your personal data has been offered for sale on any of the platforms.
For this reason, developers have come out with a way to search the dark web for any leaked information and to assist users to deal with the exposed data.
What Is A Dark Web Scan & How It Works?
The Dark web scan service or dark web monitoring makes it possible to scan most of the personal data put up for sale publicly on the dark web. How these dark web scans work is quite complicated, and are barely revealed by the companies. However, we can understand how most of them work using the dark web scan tool, and reveal how helpful they are to the average person.
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It is wrongly said that the dark web scans check the entire dark web for a match, and then alert the user to take action. From careful observation, it is absolutely impossible for any dark web scan to search the entire dark web for your leaked information.
It will shock you to find out that there are over 1,208,925,819,614,629,174,706,176 site addresses on the dark web and still counting. Out of these numbers, some are offline, and others are still online. For any of the dark web scan services to search through all these addresses for offline and online sites, and proceed to find a match to your data through the entire dark web is really hard to believe.
The dark web scan, otherwise known as the dark web monitoring, actually looks for data that has been dumped on the popular dark web markets and are made available publicly. The Darknet scan dives deep into the large databases comprising of stolen usernames and passwords as well as credit card details, Social Security numbers and any other leaked information. It does not really scan the entire dark web as we are made to believe. Once a match is found in any of the lists of usernames and passwords, the user is alerted.
When your personal data is found by the dark web scan, you are good to go. But when it makes you understand that you have no match on the deep web, you should not rejoice. The reason is simple – it cannot scan the entire dark web as it is stated above. It only accesses the leaked data that has been publicly made available on the major markets, so your data may still be available on a platform.
It is worth noting that sometimes you cannot do much then your data is discovered on the dark web. However, security experts suggest users change their passwords when they discover their data on the black market. As a proactive measure, it is not advisable to use the same password on multiple websites, and it is safe to learn how to use complex passwords.
In addition, it is recommended that individuals who confirm that their bank information is available on the dark web to contact their banks for a new account or whatever solution they come up with. Also, individuals must constantly check their bank statements for any suspicious transactions and notify their credit card providers. Any suspicion of identity theft must push individuals to freeze their account to prevent criminals from using the obtained information to open a credit account or obtain loans using the obtained personal information.
Which Types of Personal Information Is Available On The Dark Web?
Here is a list of information or personal data that are susceptible to getting stolen and put an “On Sale” tag on them in the darknet:
- Credit card and debit card account numbers
- Driver’s licenses
- Fake diplomas
- Log-in information for the payment services such as PayPal or Zelle
- Log-in information for various subscription services, like Netflix or Blue Apron
- Medical records
- Phone numbers
- Social Security numbers (SSNs)
How Can I Find Out If Someone Is Using My Identity?
To know if someone is accessing your personal details or making use of it, you have to scan the dark web in the very first place to check if your data is up on the dark web. If you find your information on the darknet, be rest assured that someone or the other is using the data for their personal interest. Unless and until your data is not valuable, it would not be there on the dark web.
Additionally, you can check with the following indications (if you have received or experienced) that could probably point out to an identity theft scenario:
- If you are expecting a bill or document via email and have not received it and have not heard from the sender for the longer time.
- If you receive an email, probably a billing or anything (also physical objects) that you are not expecting.
- If unexpected debit occurs from your bank accounts or credit cards.
- If you are charged unnecessarily from any unrecognized vendors.
- If the posted checks appear significantly in a disorderly manner in your bank account.
- If you receive credit cards that you have not applied for or you are unknown of.
- If you are not approved of your required credit or receive less than the requested one.
- If you receive unsolicited calls from the creditors regarding the merchandise or any other object that you never bought.
Advantages of Dark Web Monitoring For Businesses
There are several benefits of taking up cyber monitoring services for businesses of all kinds, such as:
- You will have round the clock surveillance that will ensure that your company is well protected and completely safe.
- It would reduce the time gap between the occurrence of identity theft and you being aware of it.
- It would shrink the opportunity that the cybercriminals could possess to utilize it making copies of your data for selling on the darknet (both dark web markets and darknet forums).
- It keeps at bay the exploitation of your clients, employees, high-profile personnel and other key executives on the dark web.
- The small businesses are not at all immune to the hackers and their various modus operandi of data breaches. Thus, it is important to conduct dark web scanning for businesses quite often.
You might be confident that you have invested your knowledge and implementation in the right elements such as unique passwords, a strong password manager, two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication. But little do you know that even then your login credentials can be stolen in case one or the other websites you use has already been breached. With the Covid-19 scenario, the hackers are actively participating in the cybercriminal activities and targeting popular websites and applications as most people are working from home and spending most of their time online on various websites. With the dark web monitoring or going through frequent darknet scans, you would be able to control the amount of losses you incur or even prevent them.
Some Known Dark Web Monitoring Services
One of the most popular dark web scans is Experian. An initial scan for dark web scraping using Experian is free and requires users to provide their email addresses, Social Security Numbers and phone numbers. For an in-depth dark web monitoring, you pay $30 per month and 30 days free trial.
In addition to the dark web scan, some companies offer dark web monitoring services that alert users when their identity is found online in addition to any suspicious activity on the credit cards. When they find your identity exposed online, you will be connected to an expert to assist you with what to achieve.
Debt.com offers identity theft protection with three different plans to choose from. Its cost starts from $18.98 per month. Also, LifeLock offers identity protection and dark web scanning with a starting cost of $9.99. Credit Karma Identity Monitoring is another company that offers dark web scanning for emails just like Experian. Its initial cost is absolutely free.
What Can I Do If My Personal Data Is Detected In The Dark Web Monitoring Software?
If you happen to take the help of a dark web scanner or a dark web monitoring tool and get to know that your sensitive data is available on the anonymous dark web, then here is what you must do at the earliest and minimize the damage caused:
Immediately Change Your Passwords
The fact states that the more frequent your change your passwords, the more secured you would be. You do not need to entirely rely on the cybersecurity monitoring services and then decide to change the passwords. Also, make sure that you do not repeatedly use the same passwords on all the websites or portals. Additionally, using a more complicated password combination would be highly beneficial like the combination of alphabets, numbers and special characters. This would ensure that the hackers would get a tough time to break through your accounts.
Activate Two-Factor Authentication
If you happen to detect your email on the dark web, this is a straightforward indication that someone probably is trying to log in to your accounts. The two-factor authentication or commonly known as the 2-FA adds much more security to the existing email account’s password. It adds a second layer of verification and protection similar to an SMS code while accessing your accounts. You must set up the 2-FA on all your email accounts, credit cards and bank accounts along with the social media profiles and the online payment providers such as PayPal.
Notify Your Financial Service Providers Without Any Delay
As soon as you get to know that your sensitive details are available on the dark web for sale, you should immediately notify all your financial service providers such as credit card service providers and bank authorities. If the situation is even more critical, never mind closing those existing accounts and open fresh accounts applying for new credit and debit cards.
Monitor Your Bank Account & Credit Card Statements
Carefully study the bank account and credit card statements and find out if there are any unauthorized purchases. If you find such through cyber monitoring, make sure to notify your bank and credit card authorities within 60 days (under The Fair Credit Billing Act) so that you are not held liable for the unauthorized purchases. Make sure to continuously monitor the statements and not wait for the fraudulence to happen.
Immediately Order Your Credit Reports
You must immediately order your credit report from three entities, viz, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You will have a fair knowledge if any account has been fraudulently opened by your name. Each year, you can order the credit reports from AnnualCreditReport. In case you find anything suspicious or have undergone an identity theft, immediately report to FTC or Federal Trade Commission.
Freeze Your Credit Cards
After detecting any identity theft, you should freeze your credit cards so that the fraudsters would not be able to cause more fraudulence using your cards. You can freeze your card free of cost via any of the three platforms – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
How Can I Check My Identity Theft For Free?
Before you ask “are free dark web scans really free?” let’s be clear about one thing. No one would ever provide you details on whether it is on the dark web for free by stating “free dark web scan”. But yes, some websites allow a certain number of free scans, say for the first time or for the first two scans following which they would ask you to subscribe to one of their plans and enjoy their services repeatedly. Thus, free dark web security scan is ideally delusional.
Limitations of Dark Web Scanning
The dark web cannot be searched that easily unlike the surface web or the clearnet using Google or other related search engines. This could be compared to searching the surface web during the period mid-late 1990s, before Google existed.
One of the major limitations of the dark web monitoring is that the technique does not scan the entire dark web as it is impossible to scan the whole of the darknet. What the monitoring tools do is that they monitor the known cybercriminal marketplaces and forums where the data dumps are frequently listed for sale. The in depth dark web monitoring service catches the overwhelming majority of the incidents that lists out your personal information for sale.
However, in this regard, several incidences state that the credit card companies offer you dark web monitoring services. They would first mention that your data is up for sale on the dark web (an assurance by default for everyone visiting their website) that would probably push them out of fear to take their dark web scanning service. As soon as you attempt to take one, you will be charged. If you are still eager to get your data details, you will end up spending huge for just nothing.
It can be said that no cybersecurity defense mechanism is perfect which draws attention towards pairing up solutions providing layered protections. This being said, only the deep web monitoring would not suffice but you also have to pair it up with a good password manager and good password security practices.
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