How to find leaked passwords: have yours been leaked?

Imagine you go about your daily business online. Suddenly, you see Facebook or Twitter sending out suspicious login attempt alerts to your email inbox. 

In that case, it is likely that your username and password have been leaked online and are available to third parties for illegal access. Not an especially pleasant scenario, right?

It’s natural that you might want to learn how to find leaked passwords and how to protect your precious online accounts, so let’s find out.

What does a leaked password mean?

It means that your password has ended up in a data leak or breach, and your account is vulnerable in the wrong hands. 

At first glance, it might not look like such a big deal, but in reality, criminals can gain access to a wide variety of your sensitive information, and your other accounts may be threatened as well.

How do hackers discover compromised passwords?

Hackers exploit security loopholes of company databases. They hack them to get ahold of stored company and consumer data, causing a data breach

The results can be quite severe as businesses will usually lose the trust of their customers and partners. Incidents like these always end with public apologies and a damaged brand reputation. Even companies like Facebook and LinkedIn have suffered many breaches.

Apart from data breaches, there are a few other ways passwords can leak:

  • Disgruntled employees leaking data – This occurs when wronged employees take revenge against their company and reveal confidential details to the public (usually, on the internet or to the media).
  • Mishandling of user data – Many companies have poor cybersecurity practices, and their stored data can easily leak even without a cyberattack. They often fall victim to data scraping that is illegal collection of data into a spreadsheet.
  • Using devices infected with malware – Malware is software designed to steal your data or damage your devices. This problem is often recognized when it is too late.
  • Using untrustworthy public Wi-Fi – Hackers connected to the same network can easily gain access to your devices and thus login credentials.
  • Phishing – It is a scam that contains a malicious link and o a suspicious email domain. Clicking on such links results in a data leak.
  • Lost or stolen devices – Additionally unencrypted devices are easy to crack for hackers with the right software.
  • Outdated operating systems (OS) – OS updates contain the latest security improvements. Avoiding or postponing them can endanger your passwords.

What data is stolen from me when information leaks or gets breached?

Here are some of the details that are usually leaked:

  • Financial details (credit card numbers, bank details, etc.);
  • Identity information (name, surname, address, etc.);
  • Email addresses;
  • IP addresses;
  • Passwords;
  • Purchases;
  • Usernames;
  • Website activity;
  • Chat logs;
  • Private messages;
  • Time zones;
  • Dates of birth;
  • Genders;
  • Geographic locations.

Even if a breach is minor and only your email address and password are leaked, these two details are usually enough to access your accounts and find out other information quickly.

If you’re interested in reading more about data breaches and leaks, you will surely find these articles helpful: What is a data leak, Top 8 recent data breaches, The biggest data leaks in 2021.  

How do you find leaked passwords? Is it even possible?

Very much so! (phew) There are several services that allow you to find out if your passwords were leaked. Here are a few of them:

  1. Surfshark Alert:

Surfshark Alert is our data breach checker which offers several useful features, let’s dig into them:

Surfshark Alert

Pros:

  • Real-time monitoring and email notifications;
  • The largest database of leaked data records;
  • Email monitoring;
  • National ID/Social Security Number monitoring;
  • Credit card monitoring;
  • Reveals the exact details leaked;
  • Fast processing of newly leaked data records;
  • Unlimited number of email addresses, credit cards, national IDs can be added.

Cons:

  • Paid service.
  1. HaveIBeenPwned?

It was created by Troy Hunt, a Microsoft regional director and MVP, and is, without doubt, the most popular site for simply checking breaches.

HaveIBeenPwned

Pros:

  • Easy to use;
  • Free service;
  • Email address and phone number check;
  • Email breach notifications.

Cons:

  • Vague breached data is shown;
  • No National ID/SSN monitoring;
  • No credit card monitoring.
  1. Google password checkup

Google has its password checker, which is pretty convenient as it alerts you when you try to sign into a site with a breached password. However, it is far from perfect.

It is also worth noting that Google has faced several lawsuits for user privacy and security violations, leaving room for concern.

Google password checkup

Pros:

  • Alerts you when you breached credentials are entered;
  • Free service.

Cons:

  • Checking must be done manually;
  • Limited to usernames and passwords;
  • Unused account breaches – If you forgot your password, you might never find out about the breach.

There are several services to choose from, so you only have to evaluate your needs and pick the one that suits you best.

What can you do to prevent password leaks?

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. With that in mind, let’s dig into these ‘ways’. 

Secure your passwords:

  • Make sure you use a strong password – It should be at least 12 characters long, with symbols, numbers, lower-case and upper-case letters (*Rf2Te8PVe9!). This reduces the risk of it being cracked by criminals.
  • Use unique passwords – Straightforward keyboard sequences (12345, qwerty) should be avoided. Your personal info like birth date, name, and surname is a no-go too (Peter19860905).
  • Set up two-factor authentication (2FA) – It is an additional security measure that requires authentication from an approved device to log in. Even if criminals acquire your login details, they won’t be able to access your account.
  • Don’t recycle passwords – It is a common practice to set the same password or to change one or two symbols of the old one when it expires. But this leaves you open to brute force attacks – constant guessing of passwords with software.
  • Use different passwords on multiple sites – This will help you avoid the worst-case scenario when a cybercriminal would gain access to several of your accounts (avoiding the same username would be a great idea too!).
  • Protect your new devices – Your new phone or computer (especially corporate ones) can’t be accessed if you set up a password, PIN code, or fingerprint.

The key takeaway is to keep your accounts secure. It is crucial to drop unsafe passwords and never use the same one on every account to prevent the stolen data from causing even more harm by exposing your other accounts.

Use additional security services:

  • VPN (Virtual Private Network) – Encrypts the data you send and receive from the internet and changes your location. This way, you’ll remain safe on public Wi-Fi and from the prying eyes of your ISP (internet service provider).
  • Antivirus – Will take care of any malware that might find its way into your devices.
  • Data breach checker – Finds out if your account details were hacked by scanning breach databases and informs you via email.
  • Password manager – Generates unique and strong passwords and saves them for you, so you only need to remember the master password.

What do you do if your password has been leaked?

  • Change your password and deny access to your accounts for cybercriminals that have your old one.
  • Scan your device for malware.
  • Contact your bank if financial data (credit card details, etc.) could be at risk.
  • Set up 2FA on the account.

What is a leaked password list?

A leaked password list is a compilation of compromised passwords gathered from different breached databases. The most famous one these days is RockYou2021.

According to Cybernews, it is considered the largest data breach compilation of all time and was leaked on a popular hacker forum. A forum user posted a huge 100GB .txt file, and the number of passwords listed was around 8.4 billion, though the user claimed the actual number was 82 billion. 

Yet it is still the largest password collection (more passwords listed than there are people living on Earth). Shocking, right?

All the compromised passwords included are 6-20 characters long, with white spaces removed and non-ASCII characters.

Here are a few examples in plain text from the RockYou2021 list:

What is a leaked password list?

This should give you a better idea of how many details, including passwords, are leaked on the Internet every day and how important it is to be mindful of where you share and how you protect your data.

What are the most used passwords in the world?

There are trends in password usage too. Here is a top 10 list of passwords used around the globe and why you shouldn’t use them:

  1. 123456
  2. password
  3. 123456789
  4. 12345
  5. 12345678
  6. qwerty
  7. 1234567
  8. 111111
  9. 1234567890
  10. 123123

As you can see, they are clearly unsafe: short, use obvious keyboard sequences, contain only numbers or only letters, no upper-case letters or special symbols. Dump them and don’t look back, as criminals can crack them in just a few seconds.

In the end, how serious are leaked passwords?

Nowadays, our online lives are very active, and many of us have tens of accounts. But leaked passwords lead to either exposure of sensitive information that criminals can use against you or an easy gateway to breach your other accounts like a falling row of dominoes. 

So, why not take advantage of Surfshark Alert to monitor and secure your personal details?

Protect your sensitive data from misuse

Get Surfshark Alert

FAQ:

How do hackers discover passwords?

They hack into company databases and thus commit a data breach, and your sensitive information becomes available on the Internet or is sold on the dark web. Data can also leak if you install malware or get caught in phishing or other scams.

Can passwords be leaked?

Yes, they indeed can. It is best to take preventative measures like using strong passwords, enabling 2FA, and checking breach databases to see if any of yours have leaked on the Internet to safeguard your accounts.

Can I find out who hacked my email?

Unless the hackers responsible for a data breach are caught, which is very unlikely. But you can find out what site leaked your details by using a leak checker service and taking appropriate action to protect yourself.

Can you check if your password has been leaked?

Yes, you can use data breach checkers like Surfshark Alert, which process data breach databases to check if your information was leaked. This is very important to protect yourself against misuse of your sensitive data for identity theft, financial scams, and other crimes.

Where can I see compromised passwords?

To see if your data was leaked, you can visit websites that offer data breach scanning services like Surfshark, HaveIBeenPwned, or Google password checkup.

What is a leaked password list?

A leaked password list is a list of passwords collected from breached databases. The relatively recent RockYou2021 compilation is a great example and contains over 8.4 billion leaked passwords.