Antivirus firm BullGuard has reinforced its 2013 Premium Protection suite with a new ID theft service that monitors a user’s personal data in case any of it turns up on the ‘dark web.’

Available for UK as well as US subscribers, the system trawls the Internet for a user-specified set of personal information, including social security and phone numbers, dates of birth, credit card data and bank account numbers.

If this data set is detected, the subscriber is told by email or text with information on how to react to the event.

Although it doesn’t explain how the monitoring works in much detail, it is an interesting sign of the way consumer security is becoming less about protecting devices and applications and more about looking after personal data.

ID theft products are not new and have existed in antivirus products for some time but BullGuard’s approach is unusual. Most ID theft protection is either just a reactive service to help in the event of an abuse of identity or monitors via credit agencies for the symptoms of a compromise.

BullGuard’s service appears more proactive, searching for data in specific places, potentially noticing a compromise much earlier, for example at the point the information is being traded on forums.

“There are a myriad of ways for attackers to get a hold of unsuspecting users’ data. BullGuard Premium Protection keeps an eye out for your personal information, searching for it in all the dark corners of the Internet to see whether someone other than you is using it,” said BullGuard’s head of product management, Alex Balan.

“Our online services continually monitor the web, social networks and sources of stolen or compromised data in order to alert users whenever potential mis-usage of their private info is detected,” he said.

For some people this feature might be worth the hefty £69.95 ($99.95) fee charged on its own.

The suite does come with other features in addition to its conventional antivirus protection, such as Social Media Protection for parents. This monitors Facebook accounts, checking for certain phrases sent or received, malicious or problem links and even photographs.  

Parents and children receive alerts if risky content is detected which account holders (i.e. parents) can access from a web browser using an online dashboard. It notices who is friending whom.

According to BullGuard, because the system monitors accounts and not a particular machine it keeps an eye on activity regardless of which device it was initiated from.

Assuming parents are easy with the idea of spying on their offspring, there are two obvious issues with this, starting with the fact it only monitors Facebook. That is a large part of the social media profile of many youngsters but by no means all of it.

A more significant limitation is that it assumes the parents have knowledge of all the accounts that need to be watched. A youngster determined enough to create more than one identity will escape monitoring.

The license only covers three devices, or less per annum when agreeing to a two or three-year subscription;this also includes a 25GB online backup allowance. Two extra devices can be covered for an additional £14.