What Is Dark Web Monitoring? [+ Free Dark Web Scanner]

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Ryan Toohil

CTO at Aura

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    Are Your Passwords (and Other Private Data) For Sale on the Dark Web?

    In September 2022, hackers broke into the databases of major companies, including Uber, TikTok, Samsung, and Holiday Inn [*]. 

    But they weren’t after the company’s finances — they wanted information

    There’s a flourishing illegal marketplace for user passwords and personal information on the Dark Web.

    Last year, hackers leaked sensitive data from over 22 billion accounts [*] onto the Dark Web. This included passwords, Social Security numbers (SSNs), and credit card and bank account numbers

    Scammers buy and trade personal information on the Dark Web that can be used to steal your identity and your money. Even scarier is that you could have no idea your sensitive information is even on the Dark Web.

    If you’re worried about whether your personal data, passwords, or worse are up for sale, keep reading. In this guide, we’ll explain the risks of the Dark Web and how you can use Dark Web monitoring to protect yourself online. 

    Do This Now! Check if Your Data Is on the Dark Web

    Many people brush off threats of leaked personal data since it happens almost every day. But, knowing your data has been compromised allows you to protect yourself from scams and increase your digital security.

    If you’re concerned that your data has been stolen, there are several tools you can use to find out:

    Aura's free Dark Web scanner

    What Is the Dark Web? Why Should I Be Worried About It?

    The Dark Web is regularly mentioned in news stories and pop culture references as a seedy underbelly of the internet, only used by criminals. In reality, it’s simply just another layer of the internet.

    The internet is made up of three distinct layers:

    1. The surface web: This contains nearly two billion web pages that can be found by search engines or that you access through your browser (such as Wikipedia or news sites). Surprisingly, the surface web only makes up 10% of the data on the internet. 
    2. The Deep Web: This contains any site or service you use that requires a username and password to access (such as your email accounts or social media profiles). 
    3. The Dark Web: This is a small, concealed part of the Deep Web that is only accessible using specialized web browsers like the Tor browser. Users on the Dark Web are virtually impossible to trace — making it ideal for communicating anonymously. 

    While not all Dark Web forums and sites are used for illegal activity, the Dark Web is notorious for its links to cybercrime and illegal content. 

    💡 Related: What To Do if Your SSN Is on the Dark Web →

    What’s so dangerous about the Dark Web?

    The danger of the Dark Web lies in the anonymity that it provides. Because of this anonymity, the Dark Web is the perfect place for scammers to buy and sell user data in underground marketplaces. 

    For example, in January 2022, a hacker was able to infiltrate Twitter’s platform and download information from 6.7 million users [*]. This data breach included user email addresses, phone numbers, full names, and usernames. 

    The database was put up for sale on the Dark Web for $30,000. 

    In the wrong hands, this kind of data can be used to steal your identity, access your bank account, or even obtain medical care under your name. 

    Even worse, in most cases, you’ll never know your data was stolen — until it’s too late. 

    What Kind of Personal Data Can Hackers Find on the Dark Web?

    A range of different information is bought and sold on the Dark Web. However, some of the most sought-after data is information that can be used to scam, defraud, or impersonate someone.

    The Dark Web Price Index tracks the average price of stolen information on the Dark Web.
    The Dark Web Price Index tracks the average price of stolen information on the Dark Web.

    The more complete a person’s profile (i.e., how much Dark Web data is available about the victim), the more the profile is worth. 

    Some types of information that can be bought on the Dark Web include:

    • Personally identifiable information (PII). This includes your full name, home address, phone number, driver’s license, and Social Security number (SSN)— all of which can be used to steal your identity. 
    • Account login information. Many hacks target username-password combinations for online services. Popular accounts on Dark Web forums include banking, streaming services, and social media accounts. 
    • Financial information. Stolen credit card numbers, online banking credentials, cryptocurrency account information, and insurance records are common targets.
    • Personal health information (PHI). Hackers target medical data including your medical history and biometric data (like fingerprints). This can lead to fingerprint identity theft and medical identity theft
    • Corporate data. This includes confidential information like intellectual property, operational details, and patents. 

    Related: How To Protect Yourself From Account Takeover Fraud (ATO)

    How Does Dark Web Monitoring Work? 

    Dark Web monitoring is a form of threat intelligence that involves scanning for your personal information on the Dark Web. It's a critical part of identity theft protection as it allows you to address leaked data as soon as possible.

    A Dark Web monitoring tool works by scanning thousands of websites every day for mentions of your personal information.

    If your information is found, you receive an alert that allows you to change compromised account details before it's too late.

    Related: What Is a Dark Web Alert? What Does It Mean If You Get One?

    What Sites Do Dark Web Scanners Monitor?

    Dark Web scanners can check all of the marketplaces, chat rooms, forums, and other Dark Web sites that lack in-depth privacy protections.

    Unfortunately, because stolen data is often traded privately, scanners are unable to discover all of it. But they are still able to identify a large amount.

    Using a Dark Web scanner, it’s possible to quickly find out whether you are one of the victims of a data breach. This can give you a head start when it comes to avoiding cyber threats like hacking, phishing, and malware attacks.

    Pro tip: Aura’s top-rated identity theft protection service monitors all of your most sensitive data across the Dark Web, public databases, and more. If we find anything suspicious, you’ll be alerted in near real-time with actionable advice on how to shut down scammers.
    Aura's top-rated identity theft protection

    I Found My Sensitive Data on the Dark Web! What Should I Do?

    Unfortunately, there’s no reliable way to remove your data from the Dark Web. But here’s what you can do if a Dark Web scanner detects your sensitive information:

    • Change all of your compromised credentials. The first step is to immediately change any passwords that have been compromised. This will prevent hackers from accessing your affected accounts — stopping them before they can do any damage.
    • Update all of your other online accounts. If you’ve used the same password on multiple accounts, it’s vital that you change all of them to unique passcodes as soon as possible. This will prevent scammers from gaining access to more of your accounts and information.
    Nearly half of people won’t change their passwords — even if they’ve been victims of a data breach.
    Nearly half of people won’t change their passwords — even if they’ve been victims of a data breach. Source: LastPass
    • Enable 2FA or MFA wherever possible. Two-factor and multi-factor authentication add an extra layer of security — so that in the event of a password leak, your accounts should remain safe.
    • Monitor your account statements and credit report. In the aftermath of a leak, you need to find out if your identity has been stolen. Keep an eye on your account statements and credit report for any purchases that you haven’t made. Likewise, you can sign up for credit monitoring to see whether someone has made unauthorized loans on your behalf. If you find anything suspicious, report this to your financial institution.
    • Contact the fraud department at your bank or credit card company. If your financial information has been leaked and you’re concerned that someone has access to your accounts, contact your financial institution immediately. They will help you restore ownership and security of your accounts.
    • Lock or freeze your credit. You can completely freeze or lock your credit to prevent hackers from opening new credit accounts in your name. You can unfreeze your credit if you need to take out a loan, then refreeze it to keep it secure.
    • Consider signing up for an all-in-one identity theft and credit monitoring service. A high-quality digital security solution can automate your protection. For example, Aura combines credit monitoring, Dark Web scanning, identity protection, and more to safeguard you from cybercriminals before the damage is done. Plus, if the worst should happen, you’re covered by a $1,000,000 insurance policy for eligible losses due to identity theft. 

    💡 Related: How To Remove Your Personal Information From the Internet

    Why Free Dark Web Scanners Aren’t Enough To Keep You Safe

    Data breaches happen weekly — putting you at constant risk. Because free Dark Web scanners are one-time services, they simply aren’t enough to keep you safe.

    Instead, a Dark Web monitoring service like Aura constantly monitors the Dark Web (and other sources) for your personal information. Aura will send you a Dark Web alert if it finds anything that could put you at risk, giving you the opportunity to protect your data as quickly as possible.

    An example of what a Dark Web alert from Aura could look like
    An example of what a Dark Web alert from Aura could look like

    Rather than having to keep track of breaches that could affect you — and then manually scan each time — a Dark Web monitor can do it all for you behind the scenes.

    But there’s even more you can do to protect your personal information. 

    How To Protect Your PII From Scammers on the Dark Web

    Because it’s nearly impossible to delete personal data once it finds its way to the Dark Web, the best cure is prevention. Keep your personal information off the Dark Web by proactively managing your digital security and following a good cyber hygiene routine.

    Here’s what you can do to stay safe:

    • Update your privacy settings on social media. The content you share on social media can be used to steal your identity or gain access to your accounts. Restricting your privacy settings means that only your friends can view and share your information, which prevents scammers from using it against you. 
    • Never reuse passwords across accounts. Use a unique password on every account so that if one gets leaked, your risk is minimized. To help with this, you can use a password manager to store your accounts securely. 
    • Limit how much information you give to companies. Everything you share with companies has the potential to be released following a hack or accidental leak. The less information you give them, the less risk you put yourself in. 
    • Use randomly generated email aliases whenever you sign up for new accounts. Using an email alias can help you organize your inbox, reduce spam, and increase your defense against phishing attacks, all while masking your true email address. Aura gives you an easy option for creating and managing aliases.  
    • Check the permissions on apps you use. Many third-party apps store your information with your permission. The problem is that this information could be leaked at any point. Reducing app permissions mitigates this risk and also prevents unwanted apps from compromising your cybersecurity.

    Related: How To Recover After Your Identity Is Stolen

    The Bottom Line: Don’t Ignore the Dangers of the Dark Web

    With access to your personal information, scammers can do a lot of damage — quickly. And with data breaches, cyber attacks, credit card fraud, and other scams all on the rise, you need to be proactive to stay safe online. 

    Aura’s all-in-one digital security solution can keep an eye on all of this, so you don’t have to. Aura monitors your financial accounts and the Dark Web so that you can stop would-be identity thieves in their tracks.

    Keep your sensitive information off the Dark Web. Try Aura free for 14 days.

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    1. Financial identity theft and fraud
    2. Medical identity theft
    3. Child identity theft
    4. Elder fraud and estate identity theft
    5. “Friendly” or familial identity theft
    6. Employment identity theft
    7. Criminal identity theft
    8. Tax identity theft
    9. Unemployment and government benefits identity theft
    10. Synthetic identity theft
    11. Identity cloning
    12. Account takeovers (social media, email, etc.)
    13. Social Security number identity theft
    14. Biometric ID theft
    15. Crypto account takeovers