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." Users at any one computer can, if they have permission, get information from any other computer. They can also sometimes talk directly to users at other computers. What many don't know is that the internet consists of multiple layers: the Surface Web, Deep Web and 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. The main difference is computers using this search engine are disguised and users can interact without 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. Dark Web merchants sell the packaged information, complete with shopping cart and payment options, to criminals around the world. The criminals then 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. They can contribute a copy of this information to a database that compares it against consumers with "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. This includes names, addresses, social security numbers, account numbers, driver's license numbers, emails, user names, passwords, and other personal information. This supply of stolen personal information largely comes from data breaches, like the ones at 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. It will alert you if your personal information is found on suspicious sites, forums and more in the Dark Web. You will have access to an Identity Recovery Advocate who can help you understand what the alert means to you. They will provide recommendations to mitigate the risk and help you overcome identity theft, 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