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Are your passwords on the dark web? How to check what leaked after a data breach

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There are things you can do to protect yourself if your passwords have been stolen.

Angela Lang/CNET

If your personal data has been compromised, you often won’t learn about it until , , , , or any other company you’re trusted with your information notifies you about a data breach. By that time your birthday, Social Security number, credit card number, health records or other data will have already been exposed or stolen. 

Any stolen personal information that leads data thieves to your identity can let hackers do everything from making purchases and opening up credit accounts in your name, to filing for your tax refunds and making medical claims, all posing as you. What’s worse, billions of these hacked login credentials are available on the dark web, to easily download for free.

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You can’t stop , but you can take a few steps to check if your information may be compromised and to limit the damage done from a breach. If you use a password manager that creates unique passwords, you can ensure that if one site gets breached, your  won’t give hackers access to your accounts on other sites. can also help you manage all your login information, making it easy to create and then use unique passwords.

After a cyberattack, a couple of monitoring tools can alert you to which of your stolen credentials are out in the wild on the dark web, giving you a running start at limiting the damage the thieves can do. Here’s how to use two free monitoring tools —  and   — to see which of your email addresses and passwords are compromised, so you can take action.