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Op-Ed: Breaking Down the Fear Mongering Campaign Behind Experian’s Dark Web Scans

Experian, the consumer credit reporting agency, has consistently received negative press regarding its horrific security practices.

It is a company that holds a significant volume of people’s personal information, and together with its “too big to fail” size status, it doesn’t particularly care about keeping up with quality consumer protection.

Since late last year, Experian has been offering “free dark web scans.” These scans are supposed to be for regular consumers to see if any of their personal information has shown up on the dark web, presumably in clear text and waiting to be exploited.

It is all relatively strange and certainly ironic, given that Experian’s own database was claimed to be up for sale on the dark web recently.

Presumably then you’d enter your information into Experian’s “free” dark web scanner form, where it eventually leaks out, and then in a self-fulfilling prophecy, the scanner gets a hit because you’ve just handed your information to Experian, which has been hacked.

It’s like a tobacco company that also knows and sells the cure for lung cancer, or a snake eating its own tail.

Experian’s Messaging Surrounding the Dark Web

To say the “dark web” as some standalone entity gets a bad rap from Experian is somewhat of an understatement.

The dark web is treated by Experian like a source of all evil on Earth, as if to say that illuminating the dark web is the cure for its own security problems: removing the source of the sale of leaked information.

We’ve all seen this before. This is the massive corporate way: a company does not like to change, and it tries to blame everything and everyone for issues faced that it doesn’t understand, other than itself. It can’t be Experian’s own security issues, it must be those darn hackerz on the dark web!

As Dark Web News started to look into these scans, the whole thing just gets weirder. Watch this 30 second advertisement from Experian about its dark web scans, featuring its “security expert” …

Ex-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks to consumers in this advertisement as a “security expert” after somehow gaining the role of “cybersecurity” advisor to the President Trump White House.

It comes as a shock to the information security industry, although certainly isn’t out of line with Trump’s other appointments which equally baffle anyone who dares to apply critical thinking to the decision-making process of Trump and Company. Let us never forget that Giuliani is the guy who said that he’d like to solve cybersecurity, whatever that means.

The fear being spread by Experian only goes further, playing on every existing stereotype in the book when discussing the dark web. It’s as if the dark web is somehow “out to get” users, and Experian has the tool needed to “be safe.” They paint a picture that the dark web harbours criminals who use its darkness to conspire against everyday people.

Frankly, it makes no sense.

Experian, the consumer credit reporting agency, has consistently received negative press regarding its horrific security practices.

Experian needs users that agree to proceed with their free dark web scan to read and commit to a massive legal document which makes Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ look like a menu at a chain restaurant.

Beyond all this legalese, by simply participating in this endeavour, the cost is running this “free” dark web scan opens you up to advertisements for credit cards, loans, financial products/services, among other “offers.”

It is as if labelling a service “free” means the exact opposite on the internet. This is something we are all coming to understand as the breadth of these massive internet companies bleeds into the mainstream—such as Facebook’s business model coming to light (it’s not a data leak—it’s Facebook’s business model to grant information to its “customers,” like Cambridge Analytica).

Credit agencies are data collectors. They exist to sell to their customers, and their customers are not you—their customers are banks or landlords who pay to view your credit reports. You’re their product.

What’s more ridiculous is the fear mongering used to scare less knowledgeable people into providing their information to these agencies in the hopes of preventing their data being leaked. Experian’s full database was for sale for $600 in Bitcoin on the dark web.

The irony of it all is obviously funny, but the whole fiasco quickly becomes deeply saddening once the giggles stop. It’s disgusting the level of misrepresentation such a massive corporation can openly engage in.

The dark web is about overcoming concealed corruption by removing the barriers universally: warts and all. Yes, the dark web can be an ugly place, but at least it’s a true representation of humanity.

The establishment cannot stand for any counterculture such as the dark web, arguably the last corner of the digital world where information can be exchanged in a truly “free” (as in beer and speech) way.

Con

Con’s education background is law, where he’s published on crypto-currency regulation. His opinion editorials range across the relationships between people and technology and the societal challenges it presents. His passion is for information security and the intertwining legal issues

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