We’ve all heard of the black market: a seedy criminal underworld where one can purchase anything from illegal drugs to firearms to organs. However, there is also a place called the “Dark Web” a digital black market where savvy users can obtain anything and everything they desire for a fraction of the market price. One of the hottest items one can come across while surfing there is a subscription to digital services, and the business for such a product is booming.
A new report from Tech Insider has shined a light on how the Dark Web is changing the way people use their digital subscription services, such as Netflix, Spotify, and Hulu Plus. These illicit marketplaces obtain private account information from normal users of these services and repackage them for new users at a fraction of the cost.
For example, one of the marketplaces discovered peddling these subscriptions was found to be selling a lifetime subscription to Spotify for $1.95, and a similar subscription to Netflix was offered for $0.50. You read that correctly, those prices are for lifetime memberships to these sites, rather than the traditional monthly memberships. If someone is willing to take the risk of purchasing one of these accounts, then they may be getting arguably a better deal than anything they could possibly find on Cyber Monday, and we cannot even stomach the thought of somebody using our own information to binge Jessica Jones.
The act of taking these accounts from legitimate users is actually not all that difficult for these marketplaces, all it requires is the ability to steal private information from weakly guarded profiles. Although these subscriptions are acquired and resold through illegitimate channels, the marketplaces that sell them have surprisingly legitimate operations, complete with help desks and warrantees guaranteeing that accounts will be replaced in the event that a purchased one gets shut down.
Of course, like any form of theft, there will always be ways of securing information and safeguarding it. It is advised that those who use these sorts of subscription services always make sure to create strong passwords, as well as “two-factor authentication,” which basically requires a second layer of security (such as text message authentication) to ensure the real subscriber is using the account. Experts also advise using a credit monitoring service to ensure no suspicious activity occurs without your knowledge. Not heeding these warnings, and subsequently lacking a properly secured account could lead to hours of agonizing waiting on a tech support hotline, and nobody wants to be doing that during the holiday season.
I think the lesson here is simply to make sure that you keep your information safe. Cyber security will always be a major issue for everyday occupants of the digital landscape, but by taking certain necessary precautions we can ensure that our previous Netflix accounts remain firmly ours.