The dark web is a segment of the internet that requires specialized search engine browsers to access. While not everything that happens there is nefarious, its increased anonymity and relative obscurity makes it attractive to criminals, who use it for all kinds of illegal transactions, including selling stolen personal information.
Fortunately, you’re not powerless to the whims of dark web denizens. There’s a lot you can do to protect your data, and keep it off the dark web and out of the hands of criminals.
Be Careful on Public Wifi Networks
Free public wifi networks, like those in airports and coffee shops, aren’t as secure as the encrypted networks you use at home and in the workplace. Anyone with the right skills and equipment can see everything you do on public wifi — including what you do in your private accounts, like email and online banking.
Don’t use free public wifi networks for shopping, banking, or other transactions — and even if the free wifi is password-protected, it’s still only as safe as all the people who have the password, so save your bill-paying, shopping, and banking activities for a secure network, like the one you have at home. Otherwise, use a virtual private network (VPN) to hide what you’re doing from prying eyes.
Use a Different Password for Every Online Account
Don’t be one of those people who uses the same password for every account. If a hacker gets your password, they’ll have access to all of your accounts! And you always want to assume hackers will get your password, and act accordingly, so you’ll be prepared when it does happen.
To keep all of your accounts secure, use a unique, strong password for each of your accounts. Yes, that is a lot of passwords. No, you can’t write them down somewhere — that’s not going to go well for you if the list falls into the wrong hands. What you should do instead is use a password manager. There are free and paid password managers available for Windows, Android, iOs, and MacOS, and they’ll not only store your passwords but generate new ones.
Protect Your Devices
If you lost your smartphone, would the person who finds it be able to get into it easily, or would there at least be password-protection to give you time to wipe the phone from afar? Make sure all of your devices are password-protected, and use a comprehensive anti-malware solution, too. Often, hackers use malware apps to steal personal information.
Monitor the Dark Web for Your Data
Despite your best efforts, some of your data might find its way onto the dark web. It’s a good idea to use an ID security solution, like Trend Micro ID Security, to monitor the dark web for signs that your personal information has been leaked. Finding out that some of your info is on the dark web can be scary, but knowing about it lets you take steps to protect it, like changing the compromised passwords or putting fraud alerts on your accounts.
Close Accounts You Aren’t Using Anymore
At this point, everyone’s probably opened about dozens and dozens of different online accounts over the years. A lot of them might be for stuff that you only used once or twice and then never again, and some of these accounts might not have any information in them at all.
But what about your old email accounts? What about shopping accounts that you no longer use? How much personal information could someone get if they accessed your old email or social media account? If you have any old accounts you don’t want to use that are still open, go and shut them down properly. And, from now on, properly shut down your account when you want to leave any service.
Of the illicit things that happen on some dark corners of the internet, the sale of stolen personal information is perhaps among the tamest. But that doesn’t mean you want to become the victim of identity theft because of it. Take steps to safeguard your identity and keep your information off the dark web, because you already have enough to worry about.