What Is The Dark Web?

Thursday, December 24, 2020

You have probably heard people talk about the mysterious "Dark Web" where criminals gather to commit fraudulent acts that result in financial fraud, identity theft and more. But most people don't really understand what the Dark Web is or how it works. Let's start with a few facts about the Internet itself.

The Internet, sometimes called the "Web," is a worldwide system of computer networks woven together into a "network of networks" in which users at any one computer can, if they have permission, get information from any other computer (and sometimes talk directly to users at other computers). What most people don't know is that the internet is actually made up of multiple layers, commonly referred to as the Surface Web, the Deep Web and the Dark Web. These layers are defined by who is using the Internet and how these individuals gain and share access with others. It's important to understand why these areas of the Web exist and why protecting your personal data is so critical.

The Dark Web
While the Surface Web is the part of the internet where we all play and interact, the Dark Web is a subset that makes up about 5% of the Deep Web. It is a place where criminals and law enforcement work anonymously, to quite different ends. The Dark Web is only accessible through a specific search engine, and the main difference is that computers using this search engine are disguised and users can interact without risk of being identified or exposed. Imagine a place where criminals can correspond without compromising themselves or their sources, and terrorists can plot with one another without revealing their location? It is also a place where cultural and political dissidents can get information that their home country might be suppressing. This is the Dark Web, full of good and bad things. The Dark Web is an unregulated environment. It is here that hackers and cyber-thieves buy and sell your personal information that may have been obtained in a data breach or by other means. Stolen credit and debit cards, Social Security numbers, account numbers and login credentials are sold in large blocks to criminal merchants. These Dark Web merchants then package the information and offer it for sale, complete with shopping cart and payment options, to criminals around the world who will use the information to commit fraud.

What is Dark Web Monitoring?
When your personal information is lost or stolen it can end up as a cache of data on the Dark Web for sale. But here's the good news. There are security professionals out there, pretending to be bad guys, who are able to infiltrate the criminal networks. These good guys, along with sophisticated artificial intelligence technology, can make copies of stolen data and contribute it to a very large database of stolen credentials.
The information in this database can then be compared to the credentials of consumers who have registered for Dark Web Monitoring. These good guys, pretending to be bad guys, can contribute a copy of this stolen data to a database that can be compared against consumers who have "Dark Web Monitoring". If there is a match an alert can be sent to the registered consumer to give them an early warning that the information is possibly in the hands of criminals. Immediate action can be taken, such as activating additional monitoring and changing passwords, to help avoid future fraudulent transactions. It can't erase the risk but it can provide a head start. Imagine the difference between finding out that your car has been stolen and being in the room when the criminals are first plotting the theft.

It's a place to sell stolen data to other criminals.
The basic principle of supply and demand applies to criminals on the Dark Web, just like it applies to merchants on your local town square. For criminal Dark Web merchants the "supply" is personal information, such as names and addresses in combination with social security numbers, account numbers, drivers license numbers, email addresses, user names, passwords, and other personal information. This supply of stolen personal information largely comes from data breaches, such as the ones you have heard of like Marriott, Target, LinkedIn, and Equifax, although there are hundreds more each year that don't make the news. These data breaches typically occur from a cyber attack on the company's systems or an internal employee who steals data.

Coming Soon!
McCoy Federal Credit Union is launching 2 new accounts.  As part of our Smarter and Smart checking accounts, you will have access to Dark Web Monitoring that will alert you if your personal information is found on suspicious sites, forums, blogs and more in the Dark Web. In addition, you will have access to a professional Identity Recovery Advocate who can help you understand what the alert means to you, provide recommendations to mitigate the risk, and help you overcome any type of identity theft should it occur, regardless of the cause. The world is a scary place right now, full of unknowns. We are standing ready to help you protect your identity with the same care that we take every day to meet your banking needs.

McCoy/NXG 12/24/2020