My Journey Into the Dark Web

I got up very early on Groundhog Day so I could be among the first to know Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction for how many weeks of winter are still ahead. As I was waiting for the live coverage to begin, I got an email message that made my heart race. The message was from LifeLock, the identity protection service I’ve used for many years. The subject line was chilling: Dark Web Alert: Identity Information Detected.

I’d never heard of the Dark Web, but it didn’t sound good. Immediately, I logged into my LifeLock account and sure enough—that was not a spam email. The alert was loud and clear, printed in fire-engine red.

Not only had LifeLock detected my email address on the Dark Web—it was paired with my password—my correct and current password.

What on earth?!

The directive from LifeLock was to change my password immediately. Just like closing the barn door after the horse gets out, I followed orders.

My new password seems longer than the two hours people were waiting in 15-degree F weather to witness Punxsutawney Phil coming out of his burrow to see his shadow and run right back in.

My new password has 24 upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols—a seriously strong password. But that does nothing to turn back time.

A quick search for ‘Dark Web’ taught me that there are two webs. There’s the normal Wide World Web most people use every day, which is easily accessible and indexed by search engines. And then there’s the Dark Web—hidden websites that won’t show up when you search Google et al, and can’t be accessed without special software.

The Dark Web is where illegal activities take place—online buying and selling of illicit goods drugs, narcotics, weapons; the unauthorized leak of sensitive information including my personal data. Credit-card and identity theft are all activities that take place on the Dark Web. With this information (including my email address and password which, for a period of time, threw the door wide open to the entirety of my online life) criminals can open accounts, get a driver license; file tax returns, grab your tax refund, take out federal student loans, buy and mortgage property and who knows what else.

I learned from the folks at LifeLock that statistically, I am 11 times more likely to be a victim of identity fraud now that I’ve suffered this breach. Scary? You bet it is. But I am not concerned.

More: A Startling Red-Hot Alert Made My Day

Here’s the deal: We as a society have now come to the place where it is virtually impossible to protect and keep our personal identifying information private. We have to assume that it’s out there. What we can do is make sure no thief, thug or other entity is able to use that information to their advantage. That’s why I, my husband and all of my family members have LifeLock protection service.

I’m confident that if anyone tries to use my identifying information to open an account, take out a loan, apply for a driver license, register a car, check into a hospital to name only a few, using my name and insurance number—I’m going to get an alert! I’ll know as fast as I knew I’d been exposed on the Dark Web. And BAM! LifeLock, with my directive, will stop it in its tracks.

Related: Your Data Has Been Stolen and What to Do About it

Realistically, I know that no company or individual can prevent all identity theft or monitor all transactions. Nothing in life is that certain. But I rest assured that LifeLock ID protection includes so many layers of protection, if something gets through, the company will immediately move into action to fix it. And we are fully covered for personal expense compensation, reimbursement of any stolen funds and coverage for lawyers and experts to restore my good name and reverse any and all damage done.

The cost for LifeLock ID Protection ranges from $10 to $30 a month, depending on the level of protection. If you’re interested in learning more, use THIS LINK to get a 30-day free trial and 10% discount should you decide to sign up.

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10 replies
  1. samanthareede
    samanthareede says:

    Great information shared about Dark Web services that everyone secures your IT related credentials of your business. I would recommend this post to everyone who wants IT security for your organization. Keep up the great work. or more details visit https://agilisit.com/darkwebscan

    Reply
  2. Ginassister
    Ginassister says:

    Mary, I enjoy your columns and advise, but this article seems like one big commercial for Lifelock. If you were to freeze your credit, no one can start any new accounts in your name, which is better protection than being alerted after someone has opened an account in your name. I am curious why you don’t recommend credit freeze?

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      I have written about that as a possibility. But it is not cheap to do so and you freeze yourself out as well. It’s a hassle and one that not many people are willing to endure.

      Reply
      • Ginassister
        Ginassister says:

        It costs me $15 to freeze my credit ($5 per bureau) and $0 to thaw it (in Ohio). In the 4 years I have had my credit frozen, I have only had to thaw it 3 times. So that is $45 for the 4 years. To me, that is cheaper than a monthly subscription. It takes me about 10 minutes or less to do it on line. Maybe a bit longer the first time since I was reading carefully & taking notes. I am always shocked when I ask people if they have their credit frozen how many people aren’t even aware it is a possibility or ever heard of it. It’s really not difficult to do. I feel like NOT freezing your credit is like leaving your car with the windows down and the keys in it. With the following you have, I think you would be doing your readers a huge service to fully explain it and encourage people to do it. Just sayin’. 🙂

  3. Palacemanager
    Palacemanager says:

    I have had this subject on my mind for a very long time. Each time you bring up the subject I do some iresearch and then take no action. The reason for this is that It is a costly commitment. One that is well worth it, but a rather difficult one to fit into a budget. The cost for just my husband and myself is about a 50-60$ a month payment if choosing the most comprehensive plan, which seems to be the best thing to do. My question is…..What plan do you use? How effective is it to even have the cheaper plans? With only coverage up to $25,000, that isn’t much when you think about the potentials of identity theft. My last question is regarding the protection that Costco now makes available to it’s members. They show a comparison chart of their plans with Compete ID, compared to a “leading industry ID protection company”. They say they offer the same coverage for 8.99 a month for executive members as the $29.99 version from the industry leader…..which I might assume is LifeLock as they previously offered that to their members before renaming it to their own brand. Sam’s Club does offer LifeLock and the premium service is $22.49 a month for Business members. Could you provide some clarity and advice to these questions for me? Thanks!

    Reply
  4. Anthony Mc
    Anthony Mc says:

    Sad but true state of affairs in todays world.Mary, I,m sure Lifelocks good, but do you have a commercial interest in promoting this product? Whether yea or nay should be stated, I think.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      This site is free to all but it is not free to operate and maintain. At the bottom of every post and every email is this clear disclosure:

      Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” We are an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to affiliated sites.

      My complete Disclosure Policy: https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/disclosure-policy/

      Reply
  5. Emily Booth
    Emily Booth says:

    I was affected by the Equifax breach. I got LifeLock and was surprised to see my name had been used for a gaming website. I also got a service to wipe my personal information off the internet. This has been harder to do because many public data websites are foreign owned. There were 3 problem companies & I was successful after filing BBB & FTC complaints against them. One company only disabled its links, tho.

    You could have the most complex password in the world but if the site is easy to hack it will still get exposed. What I started doing is using passwords that are specific for a particular site. I use a combination of the site’s name, numbers and a symbol. This way, if the site is hacked, the password cannot be used anywhere else. It’s more or less a disposable password.

    I follow Brian Krebs. I have learned a lot about the bad guys & the dark web from him.

    Reply
    • Estelle Stone
      Estelle Stone says:

      Emily: I, too, was affected by the Equifax breach. May I ask what service you used to wipe your personal information off of the internet? I would like to look into that. Thank you.

      Reply
      • Mary Hunt
        Mary Hunt says:

        Estelle… I know of no such service that can really do that. I would refer to Emily Booth’s comment above yours … the fact that she posted a comment here indicates that her information is on the Internet. Even if you were to use a service, I would not advise you to trust it completely. We live in new era, one in which we must believe the information is out there so we must be diligent in making sure it is not usable in any way to harm us.

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