What Is Dark Web Monitoring and Do You Need It?

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Dark web monitoring services are growing in popularity. Password managers offer these services, among many other features that make them a must-have for any privacy-conscious individual. Heck, dark web monitoring is so crucial that even credit monitoring firms and identity theft protection and monitoring companies are now offering it to sweeten their packages.

But what is dark web monitoring? How does dark web monitoring work? And why is it important?

What Is the Dark Web?

Before we delve into what dark web monitoring actually is, it makes sense to lay some foundations about the critical term in play–the dark web. What exactly is the dark web?

To understand the dark web, we have to zoom out to the more extensive internet. The internet is defined as a global network of interconnected devices. It can be categorized into three broad categories: the surface web, the deep web, and the dark web.

The surface web is the part of the internet that most people use daily; its content is indexed by search engines like Google Search, Bing, and DuckDuckGo. The deep web contains sensitive information about people and organizations like email addresses, phone numbers, etc. This information is not indexed and is hence inaccessible via search engines.

On the other hand, the dark web is a network of anonymous websites and forums hidden in the deep web. To access the dark web, you need specialized software.

Related: What Is the Dark Web, How Do You Reach It, and Is It Safe?

What Is Dark Web Monitoring?

Dark web monitoring is the process of scouring these hard-to-find anonymized websites on the deep web searching for leaked personal or business credentials, like email addresses, bank account details, credit card numbers, etc. The whole process is often automated.

When your email address, phone number, or other Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is found on the dark web, you’re alerted to partake in preventive measures to protect yourself. These measures could include changing your passwords if they’ve been leaked, or replacing your credit or debit card, etc.

Typically, dark web monitoring tools scan for individual information like email addresses, phone number, social security numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and passport numbers on the dark web.

Stolen or leaked information is usually traded on dark web websites and forums, sometimes given away for free. All of this leaked information is hidden from everyday internet users on the dark web; it’s hard to tell if any of your personal information has been leaked or breached.

Of course, that’s unless one of the companies that hold your data tells you about it. The truth of the matter is, most companies stay silent if they’ve been affected by a data breach or leak to protect their reputation and revenue, despite data breach reports being commonplace on security websites these days.

But you don’t have to worry about the dark web so much, as dark web monitoring tools and services will help do the heavy lifting for you.

How Does Your Information Reach the Dark Web?

Picture this: you get an email from your dark web monitoring tool telling you that it found one of your credentials on the dark web. It’s logical to ask yourself how your credentials ended up on the darknet in the first place.

If your information is found on the dark web, it’s evident that someone must have accessed it without permission. Commonly, criminals steal information by accessing companies’ database systems then leak contents or sell it online. This is referred to as a data breach or data leak, depending on how it happened.

But data breaches and leaks are just two examples of how hackers can steal your information. There are other ways hackers can get hold of your data, like through malware, phishing, and ATM/gas skimmers.

Dark web monitoring tools, which include scrapers, crawlers, and scanners, scour hundreds, if not thousands, of dark web websites per day looking for your personal information. They often scour dark websites that are dedicated to trading stolen information.

Scrapers download publicly available data on dark web websites or forums trading personal information, then analyze the data to find a match.

Suppose some of your PII is found. In that case, you are then notified to take necessary measures to protect yourself.

Do You Need Dark Web Monitoring?

Because the dark web is hidden from the regular internet user and its shabby history, it’s essential to know if your information is out there. Criminals can use your information to commit any of the vast arrays of identity theft crimes (using stolen identities to commit fraud, primarily for financial gain).

Related: The Best Identity Theft Protection & Monitoring Services

Consequently, you need to know about data leaks and breaches because it’s nearly impossible to shield yourself from future attacks if you don’t.

Dark web monitoring tools keep you informed so you can take action to limit, or, better, entirely avoid the resultant problems like account take over, identity theft, financial fraud, and others.

If you’re keen on protecting yourself, these monitoring services will give you some form of leverage to better prepare for the worst.

A man wearing a hood with binary numbers surrounding him

Before you go to spend your hard-earned cash on any of the identity theft and monitoring services that also promise dark web monitoring, you should know if it works in the first place.

The fact is, they do, but there are significant limitations that make these tools not that efficient as you might be told to believe.

The effectiveness of a dark web monitoring tool is tightly tied to how long it takes to find these stolen credentials. And that solely depends on when your information is publicly revealed on the dark web. In other words, if your information is being sold on the dark web, these tools won’t access it. And you won’t know if your data is out there.

Chances are, by the time stolen data is given away for free on the dark web, someone has already tried to use it in nefarious ways.

Knowing of data breaches earlier is always better, and thus more responsibility is often in the hands of companies that hold your details.

Here’s the kicker: big companies, too, can fail to detect a data breach or leak until later after months, or worse, in some instances, years.

Despite their limitation, there’s no reason not to use dark web monitoring tools.

Know When Your Data is Leaked on the Dark Web

It’s hard for companies, let alone the average internet user, to monitor the dark web. But you don’t have to. Using free dark web monitoring tools like Have I Been Pwned? can help you know if you’ve been affected by a data breach.

Password managers have similar built-in tools, and some even leverage the Have I Been Pwned? database to find out if your credentials have been leaked on the dark web.


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