News and Culture Notebook
3:28 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Has your email been 'pwned' recently?

Has your personal information been swiped by data thieves?

There's a website that will check your email address to see whether that address is among the thousands of user email addresses that have been unlawfully gathered by those who do that sort of thing.

The website, haveibeenpwned.com, can't tell you what kind of data, specifically, has been taken. But if your email address matches one of the addresses appearing in publicly available information about stolen user data, it'll tell you which website. You can figure out for yourself what's been stolen - basically, any information included in correspondence with that website. And, perhaps, your password for that site.

A quick search of my primary email revealed, yup, pwnage on one site. In December 2011, the Austin-based global intelligence company Stratfor was hacked by the Anonymous collective. Stratfor specializes in the type of intelligence favored by governments and multinational corporations.

I had a media subscription with Stratfor, mainly because at the time I was working in Amarillo, home to many new immigrants from Mexico, Burma, Somalia and other countries. I used Stratfor's reports to keep up with what was going on in the chaotic home countries of those who had come to the Texas Panhandle to work in the region's many meatpacking facilities.

Fortunately, I didn't have any personal financial information associated with my Stratfor account. Thus, the vast financial empire I've accumulated through years of working for small-market media organizations remains safe. 

Alex Goldman of WNYC's weekly program On the Media points out that haveibeenpwned.com only has access to public information, so it can't tell you whether your data was stolen in the recent theft of information from Target, as the details of that incident aren't public.

Still, it's an interesting project. If you know anyone who has they keys to their employer's business accounts, might want to point them over there so they can run staff emails through the checker. If you're still not quite sure what the site does, here's their Frequently Asked Questions page.