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By Ashleigh, K-Staff
It’s a buzz term that gets thrown around during discussions of data breaches and identity theft— the “dark web”.
You may have even seen advertisements for services that are supposed to alert you—or even claim to be able to remove your information—when your information is discovered there. But what is the dark web, and how can you keep yourself safe if your information ends up on one of these sites?
The dark web is a network of websites that can only be accessed with a special browser that renders the user anonymous and untraceable. Sites on the dark web make up about 3% of all websites and while not every site accessible on the dark web deals in illicit activity, it’s easy to see the appeal for an identity thief. After a data breach, information often floods the dark web, offered up for sale as a bundle of information for as little as $10 per bundle.
Many services will offer to scan the dark web for your information. Finding it is one thing; eliminating it is another. The former will allow you to take action to protect yourself. The latter is all but impossible.
Because that’s impossible. The ever-shifting landscape of the dark web makes it impossible to crawl every site. One of the major differences between the normal web and the dark web, besides the multiple re-routes built between a user and a site, is the suffix of the sites themselves: sites on the dark web often end in .onion and have an incomprehensible string of numbers and letters before it. The last count of onion sites according to a 2017 Vice article was 1,208,925,819,614,629,174,706,176. And it’s not unusual for a site to appear for 12 hours and then vanish. We can’t even count these sites accurately, never mind crawl them in any kind of reliable fashion.
What a site will do to “scan” for your information is likely to look at the latest data dumps: files of information that do often end up on the dark web.
If you do a scan, and your information is found on the dark web, here are a few things to remember.