The odds are very good one or more of the passwords you've used at some point during your online life has been compromised.
Passwords are occasionally highjacked en masse when hackers manage to breach security systems put in place to protect online user databases and the like. Big breaches make national headlines, but the majority pass by unreported.
While there's not much you or I can do to stop that, we can take steps to protect ourselves if our passwords end up in the hands of Internet ne'er-do-wells.
Notice I said "passwords," plural. That's your first line of defense: Never use the same password for more than one purpose. If a single password can grant a hacker access to your email address, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon.com account, credit card, and every other online account you maintain, the fallout of that password being stolen is much greater than if it's associated with only one account.
But how can you possibly remember a separate password for each and every single activity you conduct online? Much less a long robust password containing a variety of alphanumeric and special characters?
You can't. So don't.
Truth is, the days of memorizing passwords has pretty much come to an end. Using one of the many available password utility applications is pretty much a requirement. These apps allow you to securely store and easily access ridiculously long, complex passwords without every having to commit a single one to memory.
Making the switch from mentally managing your passwords to using an app can be daunting, no doubt. It requires a certain amount of trust in the application you choose, and a willingness to commit to using that app exclusively.
But once you've made it over that hurdle and have implemented your chosen app on all of your devices, your password life becomes much more simple and secure.
Take a look at CNet's best password managers for 2020, pick one and get started now.
Have you been pwned?
If you're curious whether any of your online accounts might've ever been involved in a data breach, head over to Have I Been Pwned, plug in your email address and browse the list of hacks the site's likely to display.
But remember: No results doesn't mean your passwords are safe now — or will be in the future.