Is your personal information on the dark web? How to know and what to do

·4 min read

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Dark web
The dark web is a place where identity info is up for sale — and that's just the beginning. (Photo: Getty)

The dark web: it’s a mysterious virtual world that certainly lives up to its sinister name. “In layman’s terms, it’s probably the scariest possible place you could think of,” cyber security expert Adam Levin tells Yahoo Life.

What’s even more frightening is you could be on the dark web and not even know it.

But what is the dark web exactly?

“The dark web is where every horrible thing you can imagine goes on" from drug trafficking to extortion, says Levin. “An enormous amount of data is obviously on the dark web. We know that tens of millions of credit cards and debit cards are there, for instance, and that information is available for sale.”

Before we get entangled in the nefarious details, it’s important to note that there are ways to monitor your personal information and see if it has become vulnerable to the dark web. One of the best is enrolling yourself in a dark web monitoring service. Nord VPN is the perfect place to start.

Nord VPN monitors the dark web for you — try it free* for 30 days

Map with pins and IP address shown
Nord VPN disguises your location, hides your browsing activity, and monitors the dark web for you. (Photo: Nord VPN)

Nord VPN is a Virtual Private Network that makes your internet connection secure and anonymous. It protects your data and hides your browsing history — and it contains a built-in Dark Web Monitor that scans dark web forums and sites for credentials associated with your Nord VPN email address. The software runs quietly in the background of your computer but alerts you immediately if any of your personal identifying information is detected there.

One Nord VPN subscription works on six devices, and includes PCs, Macs, tablets, Android phones and iPhones. You can try it free* for 30 days, then it’s just $5 a month.

VPNs are great for a lot of things beyond dark web monitoring, too. Nord VPN uses next-generation encryption to protect anything personal you have stored on your device. It also masks your IP address and location, hides your browsing activity and even makes your computer or phone run faster and more smoothly, with less buffering for videos and a stronger, more stable internet connection.

Try Nord VPN for 30 days free*

Here’s what to do if your information is on the dark web

dark web
There are ways to take your power back. Nord VPN is a start. (Photo: Getty)

The dark web is a place you absolutely should never explore on your own — and you probably couldn’t even figure out a way to get there, says Levin — so Nord VPN does the dirty work for you. If it picks up on danger, it’ll give you explicit details, including the service that was breached, so you can take action right away. Taking action could mean:

  • Changing passwords for your online accounts: It’s best to change all your passwords, not just the password for the account affected.

  • Changing your bank account numbers: Contact your bank directly and explain the situation. They’ll help you close your bank accounts and open up new ones.

  • Putting a stop on your credit cards and having new ones issued: Make sure to set up fraud alerts! You might also want to place a credit freeze with each of the three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and Transunion — so no one can apply for credit in your name.

  • Scanning your credit reports: You can also obtain your credit reports from the three bureaus and go through them with a fine-tooth comb for suspicious activity.

If you have reason to believe your social security number was stolen, visit IdentityTheft.gov, where you’ll be guided through a step-by-step recovery process.

Try Nord VPN for 30 days free*

Your privacy is paramount, and the power to protect it is in your hands

dark web
Protect your identity online with Nord VPN

Of course, sometimes large companies suffer large-scale data breaches that could expose your sensitive information (and that of plenty of other people) to the dark web or other cyber criminals through no fault of your own. That’s yet another reason dark web monitoring from Nord VPN is so crucial.

Knowing there’s an online underworld “where people basically go to buy and sell any form of contraband,” as Levin puts it, makes it a no-brainer to use Nord VPN, so you can be stealthy whenever you’re online.

Of course, good “cyber hygiene,” Levin says, is also important for protecting your information. “To paraphrase ‘The Karate Kid,’ the best way to defend against a punch is not to be there, right? So the best way to not be on the dark web is to exercise cyber hygiene.”

That includes not just Nord VPN, but strong antivirus software that’s always up to date, too. A healthy dose of online common sense — don’t click on links if you don’t know the sender, for instance — also goes a long way. Here’s a great way to get started — with some best practices for avoiding online scams.

Try Nord VPN for 30 days free*

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