Most of us use the surface web when we’re online, but beneath it, there are several other layers, including the dark web. The dark web is a mixture of both hazardous and harmless websites, but the storage of stolen personal information in large quantities has long been a cybersecurity threat to individuals and organizations.
However, how common is it for someone’s personal data to be found on the dark web, and what can you do if your sensitive information is being sold on such platforms?
Why Is Personal Data on the Dark Web ?
When we think of something valuable, we often consider jewelry, cars, high-end gadgets, and other expensive products. What many people may not know is that personal data is incredibly valuable. As we become increasingly reliant on technology, our money and personal data are often stored in digital spaces. We now make payments and financial transactions online, secure passwords on our phones, and provide various types of personal data to companies when requested (such as driver’s licenses, social security numbers, or contact information).
Over time, the internet has become a vast repository of data. Even in offline spaces, a significant amount of data is stored, such as on flash drives, personal computers, and the like. In short, digital data is an inseparable part of our society, and its power is what entices cybercriminals.
Let’s say you provide your credit card information to an e-commerce website and decide to save it for your next purchase. Unfortunately, due to bad luck, clever hackers, or poor cybersecurity measures, the company’s internal systems get breached. The hackers successfully gain access to the user payment details database, which includes your credit card information.
On the other hand, cybercriminals can take the information they’ve stolen and sell it on the dark web data marketplaces.
That’s right. There are numerous data-selling platforms on the dark web, where hackers can profit by selling the information they gather to other malicious actors. If dark web users want to buy your credit card information, they can, enabling them to spend your money without your knowledge or consent.
How to Avoid Data Storing on the Dark Web
1. Be cautious of phishing emails.
Phishing is one of the primary causes of data theft and is often carried out through email. When victims fully engage with a phishing email (i.e., they open malicious links and provide personal data or open harmful attachments), trouble is likely to ensue.
Cybercriminals use phishing to deceive victims into providing their data, often through dangerous fraudulent websites designed to appear as official and trustworthy platforms.
Characteristics of phishing emails:
- Spelling and grammar errors.
- Requests to open provided links.
- Urgent and persuasive language.
- Suspicious sender’s email.
- Random attachments.
2. Securely Store Your Data
If you store any sensitive data digitally, such as passwords, health records, or identification documents, ensure you do so securely. Using note-taking apps or word documents on your computer or smartphone alone is not enough, as these applications are not designed to remain protected.
Using a flash drive is one way to secure your data, especially if it’s an encrypted USB stick. This should always be kept in a secure place when not in use.
3. Limit App Permissions
The applications you use often collect various types of user data, such as location, contact details, IP addresses, and device information. Some platforms allow you to choose what type of data is collected about you, and you can often control this in the app permissions section.
Limiting access to specific parts of your device, such as email, GPS location, or contacts, can help reduce the damage if the apps you use experience a data breach.