First, what is the Dark Web?
The dark web is a part of the internet that can only be accessed through an anonymized browser called Tor. It is one of three layers of the internet and is hidden to most users and search engines. Surface Web, which is what we access every day, accounts for 4% of the internet. The next layer, which is referred to as the Deep Web, is 93% of what is available online, but it is harmless.
The Dark Web, however, is heavily encrypted. By nature, the Dark Web is untraceable, so it encourages illegal activities like the sale of stolen personal information and passwords. Identity thieves use the Dark Web to buy and sell personal information. Nearly two in three Americans have had their data stolen. Therefore, if you have ever been the victim of a data breach, the Dark Web is a place where your sensitive information might live. Today, over 10.5 billion email addresses are for sale on the Dark Web.
Why would hackers want to steal your email address?
Money. Stolen identities are big business and every bit of information has a price tag. Can your identity be stolen from your email address? An email address is not your social security number or birth date, but it is one pathway to accessing your more personal information. Emails are a major part of our online life as it is used as your gateway to web services, such as social media profiles and online bank accounts.
When a hacker knows your email address, they have half of your confidential information – all they need now is the password. They employ different methods to access it, with the most common being phishing email. Phishing scams try to get recipients to click a spam link, download a malicious file, or send information.
As breaches increase, you need to take a proactive approach to secure your personal information and remain vigilant. You can use the trusted site https://haveibeenpwned.com to check if your data has been compromised.
Additional precautionary methods that make it harder for hackers to access your information:
- Avoid public Wi-Fi networks: hackers can easily intercept online traffic
- Use a password manager to create complex passwords for each account, and avoid using the same password for every account
- Use two-factor authentication: using an additional step such as the text of a security code to gain access to each account
- Only visit trustworthy websites – those that have an address that begins with “https”