What Happens If My Information Is on the Dark Web?

What is the dark web? 

The dark web is a segment of the internet that is accessible only through a special browser called The Onion Router (commonly known as Tor), which allows users to surf the internet anonymously. People access the dark web for a variety of reasons. In places where governments place strong restrictions on free speech, people use the dark web for conversations that would otherwise be censored or punished. The dark web also gives criminals an out-of-the-way place to operate. Instead of dark alleys, black-market sellers can do business in the virtual shadows of the internet. 


What is the risk of having data on the dark web? 

There are various types of risks involved with having your data appear on the dark web, and some are more potentially harmful than others. Hackers might use company data to commit identity theft or credit card fraud, and the dark web provides marketplaces for cybercriminals looking for personal information to exploit. Below are examples of items and services offered for sale on the dark web between February 2021 and June 2022, according to research from the group Privacy Affairs 

  • Credit card data 
  • Hacked or stolen payment accounts, such as PayPal, Western Union, and Stripe 
  • Hacked social media and subscription accounts 
  • Forged documents 
  • Email addresses 
  • Malware and DDOS attacks 

Anytime your information shows up on the dark web, it’s important to take the matter seriously. 


How can criminals get my information? 

Cybercriminals access restricted information using tactics like phishing, malware, and exploiting weak or stolen credentials to access corporate networks. Thieves can even purchase outsourced hacking services via the dark web. When email credentials are stolen, fraudsters can use them to conduct business email compromise campaigns to lure recipients into sending them money or additional private information. As more business activities move online and employees access systems from a larger variety of devices and locations, businesses become more vulnerable to these types of attacks. 


How can I know if my data is on the dark web? 

You can try to find out whether your data is already on the dark web by using dark web monitoring tools or a digital identity protection service. However, no tool or service can give you 100% confidence that your data isn’t on the dark web because it’s not possible to scan everything in its vast expanses. Besides, knowing when your information is on the dark web is just one step in building an effective cybersecurity plan. 


How can safeguard my data? 

While large breaches attract the most press, small to medium-sized businesses are frequent targets of cybercrime. To avoid the expense and reputational damage that a cyberattack can cause, you need a comprehensive data security plan. This includes proper training for employees and implementing overarching strategies to protect your data and communications. 


Encourage good cyber hygiene. 

It’s important to understand that if your data is out there in the shady regions of cyberspace, there is no way to take it down. If you learn that your data has been compromised, change your passwords immediately (and don’t reuse them), and make sure two-factor authentication is enabled. Give your team the training they need to understand cybersecurity best practices, and require all employees to follow them.  


Secure your IP address. 

You’ll also want to secure your IP address, since hackers can use it to learn information about your location and online activity. It’s simple to hide your IP address using a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN displays an alternate IP address, which may change with each login or be common among a large number of users, so it can’t be used to identify you or your business. 


Have a backup plan. 

Ensure that your team always has access to the data they need by putting a backup routine in place. If your business uses on-premises servers, we recommend backing up your data three times: on the main server, on a separate server separated by an air gap, and in the cloud. Businesses that have migrated all their data to the cloud should use redundant cloud servers. 


Use monitoring services. 

Antivirus and malware protection tools are indispensable in today’s online climate. Dark web monitoring tools, while imperfect, can help make you aware of data leaks sooner rather than later, after damage has been done. Identity theft monitoring services alert you when your information shows up in suspicious places like the dark web, payday loan applications, arrest records, and more. They sometimes also provide insurance coverage in case of loss due to identity theft. 


Have an incident response plan. 

Having an incident response plan in place in case of a data breach empowers employees to respond promptly and appropriately to threats. All team members should know exactly who to contact and how to reach them in case of a problem. When they’re alerted immediately, IT professionals are better able to keep your data protected, preventing financial losses and damage to your brand. 


Consider managed cybersecurity services. 

When you purchase managed services, a team of cybersecurity experts assesses your current system to identify risks, recommend and implement solutions, and then provide ongoing monitoring to keep your business protected. When you choose managed services rather than just addressing problems as they arise, you can catch problems earlier—often before they cause any disruption to your business. 


Pendello specializes in serving the IT needs of small and medium-sized businesses. We provide IT risk assessments, custom solution recommendations, ongoing monitoring, and compliance and continuity planning. To learn more about us and our services, browse our free online resources.