Data breaches are far too common. They can affect hundreds of millions or sometimes billions at one time. From Yahoo's breach of more than three billion user profiles in 2013 to LinkedIn's breach of 700,000 profiles in June 2021, many individuals have had their data leaked on multiple occasions.1 But where does your data really end up when you've fallen victim to a breach? Learn more about what happens when your information ends up on the dark web and the steps you may want to take.
How Information Gets to the Dark Web
The dark web, in itself, isn't malicious—it simply refers to the portion of the internet that isn't indexed, so it isn't searchable by Google, Bing, or other search engines). It must be accessed through a special browser called Tor.2 But its lack of indexing and resulting anonymity, even from police investigators, has made the dark web a place where users may be selling drugs, child pornography, firearms, and stolen financial information.
Often, the personal and financial data gleaned from data breaches winds up on the dark web. There, scam artists pay for access to everything from your driver's license and credit card information to your medical records. The average price for a stolen credit card is anywhere from $8 to $22, while a complete medical record will set a scammer back up to $1,000.3
Protecting Yourself After a Breach
If you suspect your personal information has ended up on the dark web, there are a few things you may want to do: 4
- Freeze your credit with the three main credit bureaus. This can prevent new credit accounts from being opened and even notify you when someone tries to use your credit.
- Change all your passwords and add two-factor authentication to your accounts. Because many people tend to use variations on the same password for multiple accounts, it's usually a good idea to reset all your passwords if one has been compromised.
- Get a copy of your free credit report from annualcreditreport.com. This will help you determine if any suspicious accounts use your identifying information.
- If your driver's license number or passport number is stolen, contact your state's DMV or the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs fraud department to report the theft.
Although data breaches may seem inevitable these days, it is prudent to do everything possible to mitigate the damage if you suspect a breach.
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