• Your personal information could be available to thieves

    Updated:

    Your personal information, including your Social Security number, your birthday, and your driver's license number, may all be online and available to thieves.

    While that information may be out there, that doesn't mean you can look for yourself to find it.

    That's because they exist on a part of the Internet known as the "dark web". It sounds scary, and it can be: It's a place where criminals can trade tools, data and more.

    But getting to the dark web isn't easy: You need to have passwords or other keys to access it.

    Companies like Experian are aimed at people who were impacted by the massive Equifax data hack, and are offering to search the dark web to see if your information is on it.


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    "The unfortunate thing, is once your information is out there on the dark web, you really can't retrieve it," said David Hickton, the former U.S. Attorney and founding director of the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security. "I think as a country and as citizens, we have to appreciate that often we talk about when we are going to get smart about this. Do we need a cyber Pearl Harbor or a cyber 9-1-1 - and as a practical matter, we've had both already."

    That's why whether you decide to hire a company to search the dark web or not, there are things Hickton said you should do to protect yourself moving forward.

    To start, make sure you're changing your passwords frequently. That means at least twice a year, but preferably once a quarter.

    Make sure those passwords are secure and not using parts of your name or obvious facts about yourself. And make sure each of your accounts has a separate and distinct password.

    Also, use dual factor authentication for your email. That means that every time you log in, a code will be sent to your phone to make sure it's really you. 

    "Hacking by people is just an everyday occurrence. If you're communicating over the internet, it's a risk for everybody. And we all have a role to play in tightening it up," said Hickton.

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    The bottom line, said Hickton, is don't take security for granted. "The same way that we lock the doors to our home, and we don't leave valuables on the seat of the car that we park in the parking garage, we have the same responsibility in respect to our use of the internet."

    If you are concerned that your information may be at risk, experts like Hickton suggest you contact each of the three credit unions (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) and freeze your credit.

    That prevents anyone from opening a credit card, getting a mortgage, or getting a line of credit in your name.


     

     

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