Where your personal information goes, after a massive hack

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – In recent years, millions and millions of Americans have had information about them stolen in major cyber hacks. You may be one of those impacted.

So, what do hackers do with all of that data? They often head to a secretive corner of the Internet, where there’s a growing and lucrative market for your personal info. It’s called the “Dark Web.”

You may you may have heard the term if you watch the hit CBS show CSI: Cyber. Oscar winner Patricia Arquette plays special agent Avery Ryan. Her task, along with her team, is to solve cases tied to the “Dark Web.” What is it, exactly?

Think secretive and seedy.

“It’s sorta like the back alleys of New York,” LogRhythm Cyber Security Engineer Rick Fernandez explained with a laugh.

Fernandez, whose employer works to stop cyber attacks in the private and public sphere, adds that the “Dark Web” is really a collection of hidden digital corners where hackers, activists and criminals can remain anonymous. Often, they’re looking to sell stolen personal data.  “This is very profitable stuff,” Fernandez notes.

While credit card numbers can fetch at decent amount, the real money is in health profiles. “There’s a lot of money to be made for every account that is brought from Anthem,” Fernandez offers, as a real-world example, “And I was an Anthem customer, unfortunately.”

If you’re unaware of the “Anthem” hack. Here are the basic details. In early 2015, the health insurer Anthem Incorporated announced a database containing nearly 80,000 customer accounts had been hacked. Accounts like those tend to have a lot of details, making them far more valuable.

“Health care records have my work history, salary information, my family’s credit card, social security numbers,” Fernandez said.

The information could even be used to create fake IDs or for espionage, adding another layer of seriousness to the problem.

As for Anthem customers, “I don’t think anybody really knows right now, what [the hackers] are gonna do with all of these accounts,” Fernandez said.

The “Dark Web” isn’t just one place on the Internet either, so it’s not like a government entity can go in and shut it all down. It’s a collection of websites, forums and applications, so it’s not likely to disappear any time soon.

Due to its growing role as a hotspot for criminal activity however and possibly even terrorism, politicians may be eager to find new ways of cleaning it up. Until then, the hackers “have a motive” and are “well funded” to keep doing what they’ve been doing.

If you’d like to see how agents try to catch “Dark Web” hackers on CSI: Cyber, watch WHNT News 19 Sunday nights at 9:00p.m.


For more on this subject, check out these related reports from WHNT News 19 technology correspondent Michelle Stark:

How all those cyber hacks happen and how they get so massive

How changing your approach to technology can protect you from major hacks