What is the Dark Web?

The dark web is a part of the internet that is not indexed by search engines and can only be accessed through a specialized web browser. It operates with a high degree of anonymity. It works by routing all communications through multiple servers in different parts of the world and encrypting it at every step.

Because of its anonymous and uncensored nature, the dark web can be used for both legal and illegal applications. Unknown to many, is that the dark web was conceived and prototyped by military researchers at the US Naval Research lab who had recognized that the open internet was extremely vulnerable to surveillance. Today, the dark web is not only used by the military, but is open for everyone.

The dark web is filled with a hive of activities. You can buy anything including guns, drugs, computers, phones, hacked accounts, credit cards, and software. You can also hire a hacker to execute a cyber-attack. Most frightening is that you can hire an assassin to kill someone.

How does my Information get on the Dark Web?

IS my information on the dark web?

As you already know, the dark web is full of hackers and all sorts of criminals who target almost anyone. For these hackers, small businesses are no exception to their attacks. For this reason, it is not uncommon to find your information on the dark web.

Criminals will steal your information in a variety of ways. Some attempt to collect your information through phishing attacks. Others will hack into your accounts by cracking passwords or by using malware that captures your passwords, financial information, and other sensitive information. However, not all of them are high-tech. Some criminals are known to go through trash looking for documents containing personal data.

Once these attackers have your information, they might auction it to the highest bidder or post it on dark web forums for the world to see.

What are the Top Ways to determine if my Accounts have been exposed?

Due to the uncensored nature of the dark web, it is very difficult to know if your information has found its way there. There are thousands of hacking forums bringing together millions of hackers from all over the world.

Here are the two ways to determine if your accounts have been exposed:

1.      Conduct a Dark Web Scan

Conducting a dark web scan

Cybersecurity organizations have built tools that will scan the dark web for any traces of your information.  HacWare's Security Awareness solution does offer continuously dark web monitoring to search for your accounts that are connected to breaches and will send you an alert when someone with your company email domain has been found.  There is another website that offers dark web scanning for small businesses is Connections for Business. They only require some personal details then they will scan the dark web for any traces of your information and email to you the report.

2.      Search your Details in Breaches Databases

Have I been pwned? Check if you have an account that has been compromised in a data breach

You can also search for your information in data breach databases. These databases keep track of the known data breaches and store searchable information in publicly accessible websites. The biggest and most popular is Have I Been Pwned. This database was created in 2013 by Troy Hunt, a Microsoft regional director, and MVP.

With over two hundred thousand visitors each day, four million email subscribers, and information of more than eleven billion compromised accounts, it is by far the biggest and most popular way to detect if your data was breached. You start by feeding in your email and within seconds, your email will be searched across billions of breached information. If your information is found, details of the data breach will appear.

What Next if your Accounts have been Exposed?

It is very scary to find out that your personal information has been exposed. Luckily, you can still regain control even if your information was breached. Before you take the next steps, it is vital to find out the extent of the data breach. Once you have this information, you can take the following steps

1.      Change Exposed Passwords

It is a good thing to constantly change your password. In the event of a data breach, it is especially important to change the affected passwords to something strong, secure, and unique. A strong password, in general, should have at least 8 characters made up of letters, numbers, and symbols.

Person thinking if a strong password

You should consider using a password manager such as 1Password to help generate and keep track of strong passwords.

2.      Enable 2-Factor Authentication

Two step authentication with a phone and a computer

In addition to changing your passwords, you should sign up for two-factor authentication (Also known as two-step verification or 2FA). This is an additional layer of security offered by many services today such as Facebook and Gmail. With 2FA, your accounts will require an additional level of authentication such as a one-time code sent to your email or phone. This means that even if attackers have your password, they cannot access your account without the second part of the verification process.

3.      Freeze your Financial Accounts

If you find out that attackers have your financial information, you can contact your bank asking them to freeze any transactions in your name. This is a temporary move to prevent attackers from making transactions in your name. This is most applicable when you find out that your credit card information was breached. Once you regain access, you can unfreeze your accounts at your convenience.

4.      Communicate that there was a breach with your stakeholders and customers.

Tough communication is a form of security awareness. It builds trust with customers and is the first step to repairing any reputational damage.   Here are 3 Free email templates to help with communicating about a breach.

Conclusion

Today, everyone is a potential target for cyber-attacks. Large multinational corporations and small businesses are targeted alike.  The dark web offers uncensored and anonymous platforms where these attackers can plot their moves and auction your information or expose it for the world to see. Small businesses must be constantly on the watch for potential attacks. If you find out that your information was breached, you should take action without delay.

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