What is “the dark web?” Chances are, it’s a term you’ve heard used but aren’t all too familiar with since it’s not a literal place, but rather a hidden network of websites. People accessing the dark web need special resources and protocols to gain access to the online information and unlawfully tracked data.
Just where is this dark web? It’s a part of the Internet you already know and use, but in areas that aren’t currently accessible to you. In its simplest form, the ‘net has three layers of information that reside in it: public, deep and dark. The public web is the Internet you surf, search and enjoy today—and it includes our website.
The deep web exists simply on areas of the Internet that aren’t searched by search engines. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re dark web areas. For instance, internal company or school websites or database entries that you search within a site online are not a part of the dark web. These aren’t anything to be concerned about—they’re just one layer removed from the public web that’s searchable through search engines.
Below the deep web lies the dark web—a network of websites which use anonymity software to mask visitors’ true identities from public view. When you visit a website on the normal web, IP addresses trace online activity. But on the dark web, with the masking software activated, your computer would take a randomized path to its file destination, bouncing around a number of encrypted connections to ultimately mask both your location and your identity. You can probably already guess why hackers, cyber criminals, and whistleblowers have appreciated the concealed nature of these online communities where they’ve shared data and conducted business in the shadows without the worry of retribution or criminal prosecution.
The dark web is a location that, due to its hidden nature, can be a haven for all kinds of illicit activity that includes the trafficking of stolen personal information captured through data breaches. That means if you’ve ever been a victim of a data breach, it’s a place where your sensitive information might live. Once exposed, it’s information that can persist and change hands again and again over time—especially if it’s a valuable combination of information (like medical information, a Social Security number, or an identifying address with credit card information) that’s attractive to consumers of stolen data. These schemers have access to records that live online and are often available inexpensively—in bundles under $10 per record. These ‘Fullz’ are termed such since they include name, SSN, birth date, account numbers and other data that make them desirable since they’re rich enough to do immediate damage. Savvy fraudsters may wait until your initial breach monitoring has lapsed, and then continue to resell the data, assuming that it’s now no longer monitored.
If the dark web isn’t a place you’ve worried that your information might be, you might be among the lucky ones whose information has yet to be breached. But all too often, people are unconcerned with dark web activities until they find themselves the latest victims of a breach. With the frequency of data breach incidents happening in our always-connected world, it’s not unrealistic to worry about where your information goes once it’s out of your hands. If you’re like most of us, there’s at least some of your information available via the dark web—a place you can’t visit and can’t directly connect to without special access—but pretending your records aren’t there won’t make them go away.