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Personal Data and the Dark Web: What You Need to Know

Simon Coulthard October 01, 2023

6 Minute Read

Personal data and the Dark Web are certainly dangerous bedfellows.

There’s no getting around it - personal data is a highly valuable commodity. This also explains why there are so many privacy laws like GDPR that protect it.

As a society, people are spending more and more time online. Tracking technologies are also becoming ever more advanced. And so every action we take online - every click, scroll, and hover - is a data point that can be weaponized against us.

This points to the ever-increasing importance of data privacy.

And yet, all of this data can also feed the Dark Web. We hear this term whispered a lot. But people don't know a huge amount about this shardy underbelly of the internet.

It’s also often the dumping ground for personal data that has been stolen from breaches and other data leakages. And once there, many different nefarious actors then buy and sell it as a commodity.

Every click, share, or download can potentially expose our data, leading us to question:

How does our information land on the Dark Web? What’s down there? And crucially, how can we safeguard ourselves from harm?

This article aims to unravel these mysteries. As we dive deeper, we'll explore the intricacies of the Dark Web, understand the channels through which personal data gets trafficked, and also arm you with strategies to fortify your digital footprint.

So grab a torch, and let’s embark on this shadowy journey together!

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What Is the Dark Web?

Before we get to personal data and the Dark Web, let’s get the lay of the land.

Simply put, the Dark Web is the hidden part of the internet that is often misunderstood and shrouded in mystery.

Unlike the Surface Web, which includes all the social media platforms, forums and everyday sites that we visit regularly, the Dark Web is actually inaccessible through standard search engines.

Instead, internet users need special software like the Tor browser or I2P to break into this digital abyss.

And before we go any further, it’s important to understand the difference between the Deep Web and the Dark Web.

The Deep Web includes all the databases, private networks and password-protected sites that we all commonly use. By contrast, the Dark Web thrives on anonymity. And it’s this very obscurity that makes it so fascinating to both privacy advocates and those with more illicit intentions.

What Happens to Dark Web Data Down There?

At its core, the Dark Web offers a platform where users can operate with near-complete anonymity - meaning that it is something of a double-edged sword.

On one hand, it provides a haven for whistleblowers, activists, and journalists in oppressive regimes. This is welcome and important, and long may they continue to fight the good fight from there. Max Schrems might also have frequented it in his fight for better user data rights. And if that's the case then without the Dark Web, there would be no Schrems I and no Schrems II ruling.

On the other hand, it’s also a watering hole for many technically-minded scoundrels. Cybercriminals, drug dealers, and other malicious actors trade everything from drugs and weapons to stolen personal data and even whole identities.

It’s also interesting to note that the Dark Web is not a big place. In fact, it makes up less than 1% of the entire internet.

And yet, its influence dwarfs its small size, and means that it poses significant risks to the average internet user.

Within its confines, personal data becomes a prized asset. Names, addresses, credit card details, and passwords are bought and sold, turning unsuspecting individuals into potential victims.

In understanding the Dark Web's essence, we pave the way to better grasp how personal data becomes ensnared in its web and, more importantly, how to prevent it.

Personal Data and the Dark Web: How Does it Get There?

People often ask this question about Dark Web data, and the answer becomes clear upon reflection.

First and foremost, cyberattacks mainly cause user personal data to end up there.

When cyberattacks hit businesses, they can compromise vast amounts of personal data. This stolen data then travels to the Dark Web, where individuals sell it to the highest bidder.

Phishing scams also significantly contribute to the influx of data on the Dark Web. Using deceptive emails or fake websites, scammers deceive individuals into giving personal details. After collecting this information, it quickly finds its way to the shadowy alleys of the Dark Web.

Spyware and malware pose another threat. Developers design these malicious types of software to break into user devices. Once inside, they actively collect the personal data stored on those devices. Much of this data ends up with cybercriminals who sell it on the Dark Web.

Interestingly, insiders also play a part. Disgruntled employees or those with malicious intent can extract data from within an organization. This insider threat is a silent and often overlooked danger, with the extracted data often surfacing on the Dark Web.

Lastly, even seemingly harmless online quizzes or surveys can be deceptive. By voluntarily providing information, individuals may unknowingly be feeding into databases which then become targets for cyberattacks.

In sum, multiple avenues lead personal data to the Dark Web. Recognizing these pathways is the first step towards safeguarding oneself against the lurking dangers.

How to Stop Your Data from Entering the Dark Web?

So with all the risks posed by the Dark Web, how do we stop our personal data getting there in the first place?

Well, it may be stating the obvious, but fortifying your digital defenses is a good place to start. Here’s how:

Firstly, use strong, unique passwords. Implementing a robust combination of letters, numbers, and symbols can deter hackers. Consider using a password manager, which not only creates complex passwords but also stores them securely.

Next, two-factor authentication (2FA) is a game-changer. By adding an extra layer of security, you make it tougher for cybercriminals to breach your accounts, even if they have your password.

Furthermore, remain wary of suspicious emails and links. Phishing attempts can be crafty, but with a vigilant eye, you can sidestep their traps. If an email seems off, trust your instincts and avoid clicking any links or downloading attachments.

Regular software updates are also crucial. Cybercriminals often exploit outdated software vulnerabilities. By keeping your software current, you patch these security holes.

Also, invest in a reputable antivirus program. Such software can identify and neutralize threats before they infiltrate your system, acting as a digital bodyguard.

Lastly, be mindful of the information you share online. Avoid participating in dubious online quizzes and always review an app's permissions before downloading.

In essence, protecting your data requires a mix of vigilance, technology, and common sense. By adopting these practices, you can significantly reduce the risk of your personal data ending up on the Dark Web.

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That's Everything on Personal Data and the Dark Web!

As you can see, the Dark Web is a complex and hidden place where personal data can be traded like currency.

But with knowledge comes power.

By understanding how data breaches occur and taking proactive steps, you can safeguard your information effectively.

Remember, the digital world is ever-evolving, so staying informed and vigilant is paramount.

Let's be proactive, not reactive, in our approach to online security.

After all, your personal data is a treasure; it's up to you to protect it.

FAQs: Dark Web Data

Can Personal Info Be Removed from the Dark Web?

This situation certainly presents significant challenges. The Dark Web operates on decentralized servers, so data can replicate or distribute across multiple sites. Even if authorities shut down specific sites or listings hosting this information, they cannot guarantee others haven't already copied or shared the data elsewhere. Therefore, after a data breach, you should monitor your accounts and personal information, update your passwords, and also think about using services that provide identity theft protection.

What if my Identity is Stolen on the Dark Web?

If you think the Dark Web has compromised your identity, then take several steps. Firstly, check your bank accounts for unfamiliar transactions. Secondly, think about freezing your credit reports. Then, report the issue to your local police and update passwords for all your accounts. Lastly, watch out for unsolicited communications, phishing emails, or other activities that might misuse your personal data.

How Much is Personal Information Worth on the Dark Web?

The value of personal data on the Dark Web can vary significantly depending on its type and depth. But here's a general overview of the value of your personal data in the abyss:

  • Credit Card Information: Can go for anything from $5 to $100 depending on the country of origin, credit limit, and also whether additional information like the CVV or billing address is included.
  • Full Identity Packages: Often referred to as “Fullz,” can sell for anywhere from $20 to $130. These include everything from names and social security numbers to birth dates and also account numbers.
  • Email Accounts: Typically sell for anything up to $50, though prices can be higher if they’re linked to online shopping accounts or financial services.
  • Medical Records: Can be bought for anything up to $1,000 depending on the depth of information and also country of origin.

It's crucial to note that, as with any underground marketplace, prices can fluctuate widely. Rates can vary depending on supply, demand, and also the quality of data - perceived or real.

Can You Be Tracked on the Dark Web?

The Dark Web offers a higher level of anonymity than the regular web. However, it’s not completely untraceable. Users can take additional precautions, like using the Tor browser for access and also using a VPN service for extra security. However, engaging in illegal activities and also not following safety best practices can expose users to tracking by law enforcement or other entities. As such, it’s important to understand the risks involved and to also remain cautious.

Why Do People Sell Data on the Dark Web?

Information is power, and various individuals may sell personal data on the Dark Web for several reasons. Financial gain is the obvious one, but cybercriminals can also use personal data as leverage for other crimes, such as identity theft or fraud. Hackers can do it to seek recognition for their exploits, and others do it for political or ideological reasons. Finally, state-sponsored individuals may seek personal data for intelligence or counterintelligence purposes.

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