How to protect personal data from identity theft on dark web?

Digital interventions have simplified several day-to-day activities of our lives. From ordering groceries to carrying out core banking, majority of the tasks today are accomplished with a few clicks. While we often admire the ease offered by these digital avenues, we must equally be cognizant of the potential data risks that could stem out of our online engagements.
Online scams, phishing, disruptive malware, data harvesting malware, malicious domains and misinformation are some of the common cyber threats that people face today. In fact, reports suggest that the growing risk of corporate data leakage from endpoint devices has also increased due to accelerated teleworking during the pandemic.

Most vulnerable data on the web and its illicit use:
The most vulnerable data on the web are passwords, email addresses, usernames, phone numbers, first and last names, and credit cards. Of these, passwords and email addresses remain the topmost vulnerable data. In fact, in the first half of 2021, first and last names were also among the top five most vulnerable data, globally.According to the Identity Theft Resource Centers, the number of data breaches publicly recorded until October 2021, has already surpassed the total for 2020, putting 2021 on course to be a record year. Millions of people have fallen prey to data breaches, and the data compromised typically involves credit card and debit card details. A study conducted in several countries highlights that the age groups that are most affected are men between 40 and 60 years old, followed by the over-60s. Further, the study indicates that the younger users are aware of such occurrences due to their greater familiarity with digital environments.
Internet is a resource that allows for the rapid exchange of data for communication between individuals. There are differences in the ways that people can access information hosted online, depending on whether they use standard or specialized web browsing and encryption protocols.

Open and Dark web environments
Two such prominent ways in which data can be accessed over the web are: Open Web and Dark Web. Open Web refers to the collection of content maintained on web servers and is accessible via any web. The dark web is the content of the World Wide Web that resides on darknets, which are Internet-based overlay networks that require special software, setups, or authorization to access. Private computer networks can interact and do business anonymously on the dark web without revealing a user’s information.
With some of the most prominent data breaches that have taken place in 2021, wherein personal details of millions of customers floated around in the dark web, it only signifies that hackers are getting more and more aggressive with data breaches. Users need to defend themselves from such data thefts by adopting good practices.

Ways to protect yourself from identity theft and digital fraud:
Some of the critical good practices that individuals must follow diligently to prevent themselves from falling into data theft traps are –

  • It is important to always choose a sufficiently complex password and to not use the same password across multiple accounts. Changing passwords frequently is advisable as this practice makes them less prone to getting hacked.
  • It is advisable to invest in software’s like antivirus and cybersecurity products that safeguard personal information and refrain you from accessing any open WIFI connections.
  • Two-Step Verification is a great way to keep your account safe.
  • In an event if your password is stolen, two factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to your account. You'll sign into your account in two steps after setting up 2-Step Verification: something you already know, such as your password or something you already own, OTP on your phone number.
  • Utilization of specialised data monitoring services available can also be beneficial in flagging potential personal data thefts. Hackers scan essential information with real-time notifications to retrieve personal information across World Wide Web. There are various cyber monitoring software present in the market which can help you safeguard your data from the cyber breaches.

In summary, a huge amount of data is circulating on the dark web concerning citizens, who run the risk of being a victim of identity theft and online scams. While we can surely count upon the government and corporates who are platform providers to protect our data, the real onus of digital safety still lies upon the individuals. Hence, an investment in various personal cybersecurity products available in the market will go a long way in safeguarding oneself from potential data and financial frauds occurring in the industry. This will ensure that even if your confidential data is leaked from somewhere and available on the web, you will be able to take actions and prevent misuse.

Wilfred Sigler -Senior Director, Market Development & Digital Solutions |CRIF India.
Source: Publication: CNBCTV18 ,28th Dec,2021