BILLIONS of web passwords have been leaked online in the last few years – and your logins could be in there.
If you use online services – especially an email app like Gmail or Outlook – you should check them regularly.
Google has previously warned of the staggering scale of leaked accounts.
And a handy tool has even been developed to help Chrome web browser users quickly check if their online credentials are compromised.
The tool called Password Checkup is a free add-on for Chrome released in 2019 to increase users’ online security.
It scans known databases of usernames and passwords stolen from websites by hackers and exposed online.
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The tool, for example, likely draws on a number of recent major online breaches, such as the LinkedIn hack of 2012.
In the break-in, the usernames and passwords of 6.5 million LinkedIn users were stolen by cyber crooks and sold online.
Google’s Password Checker encourages you to change your usernames and passwords if they’re leaked by hackers.
It displays a warning when you log into a website with “any one of over 4 billion usernames and passwords” that have been compromised.
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“Since we started, over 650,000 people have participated in our early experiment,” explained Google’s Jennifer Pullman in 2019.
“In the first month alone, we scanned 21 million usernames and passwords and flagged over 316,000 as unsafe – 1.5% of the logins scanned by the extension.”
There is obviously a great risk for anyone whose username and passwords have been hacked from various websites.
It’s important to change your login details immediately to stay secure.
But passwords uploaded online without associated usernames can also put you at risk.
If you use a very simple password, chances are someone else is doing it too – and they may have been hacked themselves.
Hackers buy huge lists of these compromised passwords from many different websites because people often reuse them.
Therefore, hackers are far more likely to gain access to an account by forcing a long list of “known” hacked passwords than by trying random letters or numbers.
That means someone doesn’t have to hack Gmail to figure out your password — they could use another leak and trust you reused it.
“Hijackers routinely attempt to log into websites on the Internet, with all credentials exposed through a third-party attack,” Pullman said.
“If you use strong, unique passwords for all your accounts, that risk goes away.”
How to check your password
Downloadable on Google Chrome, free Password Checkup software notifies you when your account information has been compromised in a cyber attack or data breach.
Once installed, the Chrome extension runs in the background of your browser and verifies any credentials you use.
If your password or username matches a Google database of more than 4 billion compromised credentials, the software will flag them.
A warning that appears on your screen reads: “Password Checkup has detected that your password for [website] is no longer secure due to a data breach. You should change your password now.”
When a new data breach occurs, the tool will let you know if any of your passwords have been compromised the next time you log into Chrome.
It gives you all the exposed accounts in a small list that you can click through to change your passwords.
All information is encrypted and Google says it has no way of seeing your data.
“We built Password Checkup so no one, including Google, can know your account information,” Google said.
“Password Checkup was designed with privacy in mind. No identifying information about your accounts, passwords, or device is ever reported.”
You can download Password Checkup from the Chrome web storeclick here.
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Alternatively, you can use the popular Have I Been Pwned web tool to check if you’ve ever been hacked.
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