3 MIN READ
This Site Will Tell You if Hackers Have Your Info (Sorry, They Probably Do)
If you spend any time at all on the internet, you know how common it is for websites to ask visitors to register for an account.
Sometimes it’s worth it. (Yes, Taco Bell, save my favorite online order.)
Sometimes we do it just to get a website to stop nagging us about it. (I’m looking at you, Pinterest.)
I’ve been on the internet for a really long time, and all those registrations have really added up.
Guess how many online accounts I have.
And those are only the ones I told my password manager to remember. I’m sure there are dozens more I’ve forgotten about.
How Safe are Your Online Accounts?
To be honest, not very.
A new report from IBM says data breaches caused over 4 billion record leaks in 2016.
We’re not just talking about breaches at financial institutions or department stores.
Having a compromised account doesn't mean you're lazy or lax about your online security.
It’s just the cost of being on the internet because hackers and scammers are really good at what they do.
How to Find Out if Your Online Accounts are Compromised
If you want to find out if data breaches have compromised any of your online accounts, check out the website Have I Been Pwned?
(By the way, “pwned” is a slang term computer geeks use to mean someone beat you at something.)
Simply type your email address into the search box, and the website will comb through a gigantic database of known security breaches to see if your email pops up.
You can also enter account usernames to see if they’ve been compromised.
If Have I Been Pwned’s search engine turns up any results, the site will tell you what accounts have been affected and exactly what data was compromised.
I typed in a throwaway email address I use to sign up for online accounts and discovered I’ve been the victim of 12 breaches!
Here’s what the results look like:
Once I got my results, I went to each of those sites and changed my password.
In a couple cases, I deleted the accounts entirely since I don’t use them.
How to Protect Yourself From Online Data Breaches
The best way to set up and maintain online accounts is to know hackers will one day breach your data.
That’s not fatalistic — it’s realistic.
The top three things you can do to protect yourself and your accounts are:
1. Create strong passwords when you set up online accounts.
2. Set up account password alerts, if the website gives the option. That way the site will notify you anytime someone tries to tamper with your account.
Protecting yourself against data breaches is like flossing your teeth or doing cardio at the gym. It’s not tons of fun, but in the long run, you’ll be glad you did.
Your turn: Did the Have I Been Pwned turn up any data breaches for you? How many?
Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She thinks anyone convicted of account hacking should have to spend a day in a tank filled with giant spiders.