Your Personal Information Likely for Sale on the Dark Web

The dark web is a place where bad guys can buy and sell just about anything: from drugs and guns, to counterfeit money, to even the services of a hit man.

"Some of the darkest spots of humanity," said Brian Fonseca, executive director of cyber security at Florida International University.

According to Brian, there are several layers to the internet, starting with what's on the surface.

"Your surface web is essentially anything that is open access," he said.

A few layers in is where you'll find the dark web, which Brian described as the "…deepest part of the web, where it sort of comprises both illicit and licit activity."

In order to access the dark web, you need special software and browsers that hide your digital footprint and make your moves anonymous.

Ed Cabrera, a cyber security expert with TrendMicro, set up a computer to take NBC 6 Responds inside the dark web. He showed us passports, cloned credit cards, real identities – all for sale.

"Imagine anything that you are utilizing online that may have some value to it, they find a way to sell it," Ed said.

FBI Special Agent Lauren Szwech tracks down cyber criminals for a living and told NBC 6 Responds everyone is vulnerable.

"If you use a credit card, or you use the Internet, there's a chance your information is already out there," she said.

Lauren said it could be years before someone realizes their email, passwords, maybe even their social security number have been exposed.

"Your information may stick around on the dark web for a long time and someone may purchase it 5 years from now," she said.

And once the information is on the dark web, removing it is nearly impossible.

"You can't remove it," Lauren said. "It's playing catch up on the back end once it's already been used."

To safeguard your information, make sure you change your passwords regularly and avoid using the same password for all of your accounts.

You may also want to consider putting a credit freeze with the different credit bureaus to keep anyone from using your social security number for financial purposes.

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