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Google is giving everyone free dark web monitoring. Here’s how to use it

Soon you’ll be able to set up alerts from Google to get notified when your personal information gets shared on the dark web.

Google is giving everyone free dark web monitoring. Here’s how to use it
[Source photo: Uriel SC/Unsplash]

As the number of high-profile data breaches continues to grow, it’s getting harder and harder to keep track of how widely your personal information is spreading on the dark web, the shadowy corners of the Internet known for illicit activities.

Google, though, is giving people a new line of defense. The company has announced it will offer free dark web monitoring to all consumer account holders starting at the end of this month. That will help consumers learn if details like their address, phone number, or email were found among data dumps that hackers sell or release via the dark web.

Google previously offered this service solely to those with a Google One membership but, in an update Tuesday, announced the decision to offer it free to all users.

To access the monitoring, once it goes live, you’ll simply head to Google’s “Results about you” page, which currently lets users sign up for alerts if their personal information appears in search results, giving them the opportunity to remove that information in some cases. (Google can’t remove anything from a third-party site.) The dark web monitoring will be added to that page’s features, alerting users via email or notifications on their smartphone.

That’s especially useful as most people don’t know how to access the dark web—and would likely not be able to find their information there if they did.

Frankly, the dark web is not a place you’d want to visit. It’s a hidden part of the internet that’s not indexed by search engines and can only be accessed via specialized browsers. Hackers use it as a marketplace to, among other things, sell personal information taken from attacks on websites, financial service companies, and medical facilities. Cybercriminals pay anywhere from a few bucks to thousands of dollars for everything from personal data to forged documents.

While being aware that your personal information is on the dark web is useful, you’ll need to take action once you find out how to help protect yourself. (Just as Google can’t remove your information from third-party sites, it can’t remove it from a hacker’s offerings.) An alert that your data is on the dark web, though, is a digital canary in the coal mine, which serves as a warning to change your passwords and freeze your credit to ward off possible identity theft.

And there’s plenty of identity theft going around these days. The Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) 2023 report, published late last month, showed a 118% increase in the number of job scams carried out through websites (most often LinkedIn and other job platforms).

While job scams saw the biggest gains percentage-wise, they were only the second biggest type of scam the ITRC reported, making up just 9% of the total. Google Voice scams continued to top the list, making up 60% of the reported identity crimes last year.

The overall number of victims, the group said, was lower, but more people reported they had been the victim of multiple identity-theft attempts or identity misuses.

“The information gleaned from speaking with victims and curious consumers seeking prevention information—coupled with data from other ITRC and public reports—show an environment where bad actors are more effective, efficient, and successful in launching attacks,” said Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of ITRC, in the report. “The result is fewer victims (or at least fewer victim reports), but the impact on individuals and businesses is arguably more damaging.”

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Chris Morris is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience. Learn more at chrismorrisjournalist.com. More

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