The internet, as most people know it, only scratches the surface of activity happening on the web. Thieves, hackers, and terrorists love to hang out on the dark web, a tiny subset of the internet where users can buy and sell just about anything, including cloned credit cards, hacked financial and social media accounts, and banking logins.
Some people use the dark web for its anonymity and confidentiality. Although it isn’t only used for nefarious purposes, once your personal or business information hits the dark web, criminal activity can soon follow. That’s where dark web monitoring services come into play.
What Is the Dark Web?
Between 96% and 99% of the internet is made up of what’s known as the “deep web.” This includes any content that can’t be accessed through search engines. Common examples include fee-based content behind a paywall. It also includes content that requires you to sign in to access it, including membership websites, confidential business pages, and medical records.
The dark web is a small part of the deep web and is estimated to make up about 5% of the internet as a whole. It’s hidden purposely and requires users to have a specific browser known as Tor to gain access.
While traditional search engines, such as Google or Bing, contain indexes of website links that are then ranked, the dark web uses other types of information, including content from social media, legal documents, and professional databases.
The Dark Web's History
The dark web has been around since the turn of the millennia. In the early 2000s, Ian Clarke created Freenet as a system to protect users from cyberattacks and intervention from governments as a means of encouraging free expression without fear of online tracking. Shortly after, The Onion Router (or Tor) emerged as a means for intelligence sources to communicate safely, even in hostile areas.
In the decades since the dark web was born, it has given rise to cryptocurrencies and criminal activity. Although it was founded to support freedom of expression and privacy, many use it to violate people's privacy and carry out criminal activities.
Importance of Dark Web Monitoring Services
The sensitive information of individuals, businesses, and other organizations can find its way to the dark web. Once there, criminals can access that information and damage finances, reputations, and more. Dark web monitoring services keep a watchful eye on that information, allowing individuals and organizations to prevent or reduce the amount of damage caused by a data breach.
These services typically use a combination of manual monitoring conducted by humans and artificial intelligence (AI) for ongoing, continual monitoring. Dark web monitoring services routinely watch areas like private networks, forums, chat rooms, and other sites popular among hackers and criminals.
Benefits of Using a Dark Web Monitoring Service
It's possible for individuals to get on the dark web by installing browsers like Tor. You can search for your information yourself to see if your information is on there. However, accessing the information on the dark web can be challenging since it isn't indexed. It also increases the vulnerability of your computer and personal information while you're on the dark web.
That's one of the biggest benefits of using a dark web monitoring service. They perform thorough, detailed searches and scans, warn you of risks, and keep your computer, system, and information safe.
Additional benefits include:
- Impact: Higher odds of reducing the impact of stolen information by identifying breaches and attacks early
- Preparedness: Improved preparedness against future threats with a better understanding of the vulnerabilities and how they were manipulated
- Safeguarding: Better safeguarding capabilities that allow individuals and businesses to stop criminals from being able to use stolen information
- Time: Reduced time between data breaches occurring and discovery, which reduces the impact of those breaches and shortens the time criminals have to use sensitive information
Best Identity Theft and Credit Monitoring Services for the Dark Web
The dark web is the ideal place for identity thieves and criminals to buy and sell individuals' personal information. Some of the data commonly found here include Netflix and other streaming platform logins, Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, licenses, passports, credit card and debit card numbers, medical account numbers, and more.
Credit monitoring services that scan the dark web allow individuals to act quickly and freeze the affected accounts before dark web users can steal their identities or wreak havoc on their finances. Some of the best dark web monitoring services for individuals include:
- Experian IdentityWorks
- ACID Intelligence
- Cobwebs Technologies Web Investigation Platform
- DigitalStakeout Scout
- ID Watchdog
- Identity Guard
- DarkOwl Vision App
Best Dark Web Monitoring Services for Businesses
Individuals aren’t the only ones vulnerable to data breaches and stolen information. The stakes are arguably even higher for businesses and organizations, which have their own information and their customers’ and clients’ information to consider.
Cybersecurity is among the most significant risks to enterprises in 2022, and everyone from network administrators to C-suite executives must take it seriously. Using dark web monitoring services can help everyone stay on top of information security and catch data breaches in their earliest stages. Some of the top dark web monitoring services for businesses include:
- CrowdStrike Falcon X Recon
- Digital Stakeout
- SpyCloud ATO Prevention
- Echosec Beacon
- Digital Shadows SearchLight
- Alert Logic Dark Web Scanner
- Dashlane Business
- WhatsUp Gold
How To Choose Dark Web Monitoring Services
Ultimately, whether you’re looking for a dark web monitoring service for yourself or your business, the one that will be best is the one that most closely meets your needs. There are free options out there, like Defendify Cybersecurity Platform and Hashcast. You might also find some that offer extras. For example, Ecosec Beacon checks for account credentials that are compromised, and SpyCloud ATO Prevention secures you from account takeovers.
Consider factors like features and costs and compare several options. Having the right dark web monitoring service can provide added peace of mind that comes with knowing if your information or your business’ information ends up on the dark web, you’ll know about it.