Shedding light on the dark web

Just looking at the latest headlines, cyber-attacks on company customer databases have increased in recent years and this has brought the spotlight on the dark web. We hear of personal details being leaked and compromised putting thousands of people at threat of fraud and identity theft. If you’re unsure what exactly the dark web is and how it could affect you, then carry on reading. Most importantly we’ll explain how the dark web relates to you and your credit report and why exactly you should to be clued up on it.

The internet is a vast place divulging all sorts of information with millions of people using it every day however, they are only ever scratching the surface. Lurking beneath the normal realm of the internet we all use, there is a hidden layer known as the dark web.

The dark web is a term often used interchangeably with the term deep web but both are quite different and aren’t to be confused.

Deep web – The deep web where online content isn’t indexed by the major search engines.  Think of Google or Bing as Yellow Pages, and all the businesses that aren’t inside the big yellow book are hidden – that’s the deep web.

Dark web – The dark web is a small part of the deep web that is used by criminals and is intentionally hidden since it contains illegal content. It is an encrypted version of the internet, a network of sites that are hosted on special servers and inaccessible through normal web browsers.

What information is on these hidden parts of the web?

On the deep web the types of information that can normally be found are government resources, scientific and research reports, medical records and legal documents. As for the dark web, the information is concerned with illegal activity such as drug trafficking, child pornography, buying and selling guns and illegal weapons as well as credit card fraud and identity theft.

Criminals will exploit the dark web to commit illegal activity

Identity fraud and the dark web

You’re probably familiar with the risk of having your credit card or other personal details stolen, i.e. identity theft, but what criminals then do with that data might be a little less known. Identity thieves/criminal networks use the dark web as a tool to exploit your personal details for a profit by putting them up for sale where other criminals can use the data to send spam or commit identity fraud by hacking into email accounts, opening up bank accounts in your name or stealing money from your existing accounts, depending on what information they can get hold of.

Financial Fraud Action (FFA) reported a 25% increase in financial fraud in 2016.*

How it’s being tackled

The UK government launched a dedicated unit for cybercrime on the Dark Web in March 2015 and the National Crime Agency and UK intelligence organisation GCHQ teamed up in November 2015 to tackle the same issue.

So what can you do to prevent the risk of fraud and the dark web?

Considering the changing nature of technology and cybercrime it’s important to be proactive when safeguarding yourself against fraud and ensure your personal information isn’t being exploited in the dark depths of the internet. It all starts with protecting your personal details, everything from your email address, log in details to even the most mediocre sites, your mother’s maiden name and where you were born. Here are some simple steps to take to prevent identity theft and fraud:

  • Be password smart and use strong passwords for every account – to help remember try using three random words with a mixture of numbers e.g. 12dumplingsnoodlestakeaway
  • Shred all sensitive documents and letters you no longer need
  • Never give out your personal information such as bank details, national insurance number or date of birth to anyone who contacts you unexpectedly, even if they say they are a bank
  • Check the security settings on your social media accounts
  • Check your bank statements and credit report thoroughly and report anything suspicious
  • Keep the security software on all your connected devices up to date, any minor loophole could be enough for a criminal to hack into your files
  • If you move house, ensure you register your new address with Royal Mail so they can redirect your post

 

* https://www.financialfraudaction.org.uk/news/2016/10/12/scams-and-online-attacks-drive-fraud-increase-figures-show/