The fact is: your data, or at least specific information items may very well be for sale on the Dark Web. Among other things, it is an anonymous clearinghouse for stolen data. You may be surprised at what you find of yours with a ‘For Sale’ sign on it.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Dark Web but don’t really know what it is. While it’s good to be aware of such places, it’s generally not a good idea to go there unless you’ve got a darn good reason. Ask any reputable member of the IT Support Los Angeles Community, and the first thing they will ask is why would you want to go there? In Cyber World, the Dark Web is the bad side of town – the worst part of town.

Even experts, like any Managed IT Services provider or any type of IT consulting service, know not to fool around in there – and your typical IT support and services professional do not want their clients surfing through there – any wrong step can release a world of hurt on your network and your IT HelpDesk and field IT service technicians will be scrambling to stem the damage.

What is the Dark Web?

It is a sub-sector of the World Wide Web that operates on ‘darknets’ or ‘overlay networks’ – networks that are layered on top of other networks and only accessible with special software with separate communications protocols and authorizations. Think of it as that door at the end of a dark, dirty alley – when you knock, you’d better know the right password.

The first example of a darknet goes back to the 1970ss shortly after the birth of the internet through the new Department of Defense network ARPANET. The primary advantage of the Dark Web is anonymity, and is currently in use for many legitimate reasons, and many illegal ones.

Is it Legal to Surf the Dark Web?

Yes, it is perfectly legal to go there and look around as there are many legitimate activities to engage in and sites to visit without revealing your identity. Doing actual business there involves the same laws that exist in your country – if it’s illegal to buy cocaine, machine guns or child pornography in real life, you suffer the same potential criminal penalties by doing so on the Dark Web.

How Dangerous is the Dark Web?

The level of danger depends on how cautious you are with what you want to access. A novice wandering around in the Dark Web smells like fresh meat to the criminal predators that proliferate there. You could be tricked into a situation that leads to crooks hacking your system, and while it may seem edgy, inadvertently stumbling onto illegal activities could lead to retaliation – these cyber thugs have ways of getting your IP address and figuring out where you are. Also, there can be horrific material on there that you will not be able to ‘un-see’.

This is, after all, the Black Market of the internet, where people post anything from stolen data and passwords to illegal activities for hire – such as murder. In October 2018, Lieutenant Colonel Yevgeniya Shishinka, a high ranking Russian Police investigator working on fraud and drug trafficking, was shot and killed outside of her home by assassins whose services were hired through a site on the dark web that was primarily used for drug trafficking. The two assassins were caught and jailed, revealing the source of the ‘contract.’ It is believed that dark web criminals have been responsible for other murders-for-hire, but this was the first fully documented case.

If you have any suspicion that data from your company has been stolen and may be available for sale on the Dark Web DO NOT take it upon yourself to start snooping around in there. Talk to your IT support company or Managed Services Provider. Here at IT Support LA, we perform Dark Web scans that reveal a surprising amount of theft. We recently performed a scan for a prospective client – a law firm with about 20 employees and we found 62 separate pieces of information that were for sale – among them were passwords and network authentications that a hacker could use to breach their network. They are now a Managed IT Services client, and even though our Cybersecurity protections are second to none, plenty of stolen data doesn’t come from the home network, so we routinely re-scan the Dark Web on a regular basis.

Is a Dark Web Scan Safe?

It is safe if done by a knowledgeable IT support company, or better yet, a Managed IT Services provider that you either know and trust or at least has an impeccable reputation, because in order for an IT consulting service to scan for your data, they need to have access to the data. It is unwise to trust this information on a low level, generic ‘IT services Guy’.

A Dark Web scan only informs you of the problem, but as all it does is show you whether any of your information is there, it does not effect a remedy. Depending on the nature of the stolen data you find, it is best to simply nullify its effectiveness - change any compromised passwords or authentications that could endanger your network.

If you find Personally Identifiable Information (PII), such as a Social Security Number, you should take the same steps as you would for an Identity Theft, such as contacting the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and Transunion, and place a credit freeze with each in order to prevent anyone from opening new accounts in your name. The FBI offers a checklist with available resources HERE.

See for yourself:

IT Support LA offers a FREE one-time scan to any company in the Greater Los Angeles and Ventura County areas with 10 or more computers and a server. We have performed many of these confidential scans, and there is no obligation to do business with us.

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