COLORADO SPRINGS — The tactics of cybercriminals and fraudsters and how they are using the "dark web"' is a story that's made a lot of headlines during the last year. News5 speaks with cybersecurity experts about how the dark web works and why they're concerned.
During the last year many people experienced identity theft for the first time and they were told their information was likely bought and sold on the dark web. So, how exactly does that work?
The dark web is like the wild west, the black market of the internet. Using a special web browser users enter an unregulated marketplace where consumers can use cryptocurrency like Bitcoin outside of the oversight of the government to buy dangerous and illegal items like drugs, child pornography, weapons, phony documents, and data breach information for identity theft.
Remember those vaccine card selfies we warned you not to post? The experts say this is where they are ending up and it's making criminals rich.
"So there's a buzz of activity there. So why are people advertising there? Because they know that people will come," said Brian Linder, emerging threats expert for Check Point Software. "In the dark web, 25 bucks gets you a negative COVID 19 test. And 200 bucks gets you a CDC, what looks like an authentic CDC vaccine card."
Wanting to share his knowledge of the dark web and what this all means, leading cybersecurity expert in the Pikes Peak Region Dr. Erik Huffman says this area should be on everyone's radar.
"You have the dark web where you can be as anonymous as you want and you can pay someone via cryptocurrency and the IRS just can't get their hands on it and find out where it's going. They are making an insane amount of money and it's growing," said Dr. Huffman.
He's spent several hours doing research on the dark web and says the success of cybercriminals in this realm is making defending against these crimes even more difficult.
"Cyber crime is now worth more than the drug trade when you look at how much money is being made via drugs and how much money is being made via cyber crime. Cyber crime is now the king of that," said Dr. Huffman. "So, you now have cyber professionals or former cyber professionals, now hackers are thinking I can make $50,000 to $120,000 on the good guy's side or I can make $120,000 a week or a month doing illegal activity on the dark web."
The most common way cyber criminals are making money from their customers by reselling their names, dates of birth, email and home addresses. So many people are sharing vaccination information publicly, counterfeit vaccination documents are even showing up for sale on mainstream websites as well.
Dr. Huffman says even the most tech savy people need to pay attention.
"Myself as a millennial, it's kind of like social security number, bank account information, I've done this a thousand times and so we're comfortable and because we are comfortable we let our guard down and that's when you're vulnerable. So I'm concerned about my age group and younger," said Dr. Huffman.
Cyber experts say if you've invested in an identity theft protection service to help protect you from being a victim of fraud, you'll want to ask that company what tools it uses to track information on the dark web to make sure you're getting the best protection possible.