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Security & privacy

Are you one of millions using a login that’s been leaked online?

Is your password actually safe? Few people take the time to ask themselves this question, but in reality, the sheer amount of data breaches and leaks have made it all too likely that your password is floating around somewhere on the internet — just waiting to be accessed by an ambitious hacker.

Even if this applies to you, you aren’t alone. A staggering amount of passwords have been found to be vulnerable by security researchers at Google. And now, it’s offering a tool that will help you scan your passwords to see if any of them are putting you at risk.

If you’re a Google Chrome user, you might want to try out this new feature as soon as you can. The longer your weak passwords remain unchanged, the greater your risk of identity theft, hacking and account hijacking. Are you ready to make your profiles safer?

Google encourages users to try out its Password Checkup extension security tool

In a February report from Google, the company outlined an urgent need for internet users to consider resetting a number of their account passwords. This comes in light of the numerous data breaches and leaks of the past few years.

Additionally, Google revealed it had developed an extension for its Chrome browser that would automatically scan the passwords typed by users, check them against known leaked databases and reveal if any had been compromised or stolen.

This extension, called Password Checkup, is available as a free download for any and all Chrome users. Now, Google has released the latest version of this application and is encouraging users to scan their passwords to verify if they’ve been archived by cybercriminals.

In Google’s report, the company revealed that “In the first month alone, [they] scanned 21 million usernames and passwords and flagged over 316,000 as unsafe.” That equates to 1.5% of the sample size having been compromised in some form.

It’s highly likely that the number of affected users is even larger than what’s been observed so far.

How can I check my passwords for security?

The Google Password Checkup extension is available as a free download for Google Chrome users. Currently, it is only available for Chrome and no plans have been announced to import the extension to other browsers like Firefox and Opera.

When the extension is installed, it automatically scans passwords as you enter them to log in. If it matches it against a known password from its list, you’ll receive an alert to change your password, as well as some suggestions to make your new password more secure.

As it stands, downloading the extension is an excellent idea, and will give you a greater understanding of how secure your digital footprint really is. Changing passwords routinely is already recommended by cybersecurity experts, so knowing which passwords demand priority will help you stay as safe as possible.

As for creating new passwords (in case you’re not too keen on Google’s suggestions), the company recommends not choosing common passwords for the sake of convenience, like “123456” and “password.” It also suggests avoiding using the same password on different websites, since a hacker could gain access to one and now have the key to another.

Ultimately, keeping track of your passwords and making sure they’re secure should be a normal part of your cybersecurity precautions. Google’s tool just makes the process a whole lot less painful for the rest of us.

As passwords give way to biometric verification, the least we can do in the meantime is to make sure the ones we use matter. Otherwise, we’re just sitting ducks for the hackers and cybercriminals of the world to pick off — and nobody wants that. App background

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