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The dark web. Sounds scary right? Like a bad guy from one of these fantasy or sci-fi movies. Well, it’s real, and it’s something you should be aware of. (Unfortunately.) First, let’s take a look at what the dark web is.
Though you may have heard the terms used interchangeably, the dark web is not the same as the deep web. (Read up on the deep web here.) The deep web is mostly harmless information that is easily searched in the same way the regular internet works. The dark web, however, has a much more sinister reputation — and for good reason.
The dark web can only be searched using a specialized router or browser download called a “Tor,” or The Onion router. This ensures your dark web search history is completely anonymous because it cannot be detected by regular search engines. While not all activity on the dark web is necessarily criminally minded, it has become almost synonymous with illegal activities.
And it is becoming easier to safely access the dark web. Here's a list of things you can find on the dark web.
Black market drugs: Here, you can find both illegal and illegally procured prescription drugs.
Stolen information: This is where stolen information from data breaches and/or stolen identities end up. Think Social Security numbers, personal info, and banking logins. You can even buy login information for services like Netflix and Amazon Prime on the dark web.
All kinds of disturbing things: Avert your eyes, fair reader. You don’t want to go here. Things like gory images, videos of illegal activity, human trafficking and offers for prostitution, and a black market for stolen guns and counterfeit items.
Why use the dark web for browsing?
There are several lawful reasons one may want to use the dark web for their internet usage. Whistleblowers, investigative journalists, protest organizations and citizens in repressive regimes organizing for change are good examples of the benefits of a largely anonymous place on the internet.
For some people, privacy is a major concern and the dark web allows for internet browsing with complete anonymity. Others don’t want their browsing history to be accessible under totalitarian governments, times of political unrest, or during undercover police work.
If you choose to use the dark web, always be careful.
Some websites you encounter on the dark web, however, are run by criminals and can be, well, dangerous. Be sure to watch out for any of the following:
Sites encouraging or allowing people to do anything illegal. If you stumble onto anything that looks like it might involve illegal activity, don’t click on anything and exit your browser window. You may want to alert the local police.
Strange or suspicious links. These could expose your device to malware or lead you to something you don’t want to see. Use your best judgement while you’re clicking links on the dark web.
Opportunities for cybercriminals. Use caution when giving any proprietary information, as the dark web is a great place for identity theft. You may even encounter law enforcement officers using the cover of darkness to try and catch cyber criminals.
Don’t worry: You can’t “accidentally” end up on the dark web.
Regular browsers can’t access the dark web via a search engine like Google. Web addresses on the dark web also appear differently — ending in “.onion’ (instead of regular endings like .com, .org, or .gov). If you do want to access the dark web, use caution. Never give out any personal information while you’re browsing or publishing and alert the Federal Trade Commission if you encounter any stolen information for sale.
If you suspect any of your personal information was used, contact the police.
How do you keep yourself and your devices safe on the dark web?
You can’t be everywhere at once — especially on the dark web. That’s why it’s important to equip yourself with the tools necessary to protect yourself by opting into an identity theft service, like the one we offer in partnership with Experian® through Kasasa Care.
With three tiers of protection starting at just $8 a month, you and your family don’t have to worry about scouring the dark web for signs that your information is being used fraudulently — we take care of that for you as part of our identity protection service. (We’re not scared.)
You might think you already have identity theft protection through your financial institution. In most cases you do, but these services only kick in after fraudulent activity is detected. Our identity protection service (in technical terms, it’s called identity surveillance) is much more proactive — we dig deep on anything from websites to blogs and bulletin boards to peer-to-peer sharing networks to identify the illegal trading and selling of your personal information. Every. Single. Day. (It’s true!)
It’s like your neighbor that always calls you when you left a package outside for too long or to make sure that car with an out-of-state license plate is actually a distant cousin — but a little more helpful.