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Announcements are commonplace now: hackers have stolen private information from companies like LinkedIn, Target, KickStarter, and Adobe. It’s numbing, to be honest. And that nagging worry: what really happens when our information is hacked?

Enough Information to Scare You, and a Warning About Porn

Lately, that personal information has been used for “sextortion” schemes. If your data’s been stolen, the criminal puts enough of it — maybe a stolen password you’ll instantly recognize — into an email subject line.

That gets your attention and you read the email, where the writer warns they’ve been watching you, and recording you looking at porn. They then demand a payment in bitcoin.

What to do?

First, know that the part about recording you is almost certainly bogus. The writer has simply bought your password off a hacker’s website along with many others. These emails go to everyone, hoping to find some who are embarrassed enough to pay.So:

  • Don’t panic.
  • Don’t respond. Don’t pay up.
  • If you’re using that password, change it immediately.
  • Consider using password protection programs and updating your anti-virus software.
In fact, this is a good time to check which of your accounts may have been compromised. It isn’t “have you been affected” any more, it’s “how often”.

Have You Been Pwned?

We get so many notices, it’s easy to put them to the side — but luckily you can get a big picture from (“Pwned” means a hacker has gotten your account information.) You’ll doubtless find it interesting — if not shocking — to see a list of the times your information’s been stolen.For more information about sextortion and other dangers, we recommend the Electronic Freedom Foundation. Their website covers the topic of protecting privacy in great detail. Cruzio works with the EFF on Net Neutrality and other issues — they are a great non-profit, pro-consumer group.