The term “Pwned” comes from video game culture and means “owned” (since the “o” and “p” characters are beside each other on a keyboard). Pwned implies domination, humiliation and ownership by an opponent. It is a taunt that you have been soundly defeated.
“Pwned” has been imported into hacking culture. You are pwned if someone has stolen one of your email addresses and passwords. If one of your accounts has been hacked somewhere on the Internet, then you are most definitely pwned. It is the first step to stealing someone’s identity. Worried? You can check which of your email addresses have been pwned by entering them here: https://haveibeenpwned.com/.
OK, so you’ve been pwned; who hasn’t? Now what? (Seriously, if you have no emails showing up on this site, let me know. You’d be the first).
First don’t worry (yet). The site will also tell you if your email has been “pasted” or shared to a public facing website. If it hasn’t been pasted, then it probably hasn’t been used or sold. I say “probably” because the site can only search for the public websites it knows about.
First Steps to Take Back Your Account
- Change the password on the site that was hacked.
- Change all other sites for which you use that same email and password. (Of course you never use the same password on more than one site. If you do, then stop that practice; every site on which you have an account should have a different password.)
Next Steps to Save You from Pain in the Future
- Set a free email account as a “honey pot”. Use to sign up for free stuff. It doesn’t matter if your entry for that Aston Martin is hacked next year; you didn’t win anyway.
- Always use a different password for each account you create. I know this sounds difficult, but it isn’t if you have a password safe.
- Use a password safe. Every web browser has a password safe built in: Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Safari. They include these to help you, to build loyalty for their browser product, and to aggregate your shopping habits.
Here’s a better idea: why not use a universal password safe like Lastpass? It works with all browsers. is very secure, works with Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices, and you can purchase it for your family or entire business. A password safe allows you to remember one password (the one to open the safe) and then it automatically fills in every password you need when you log into a website. It can also auto generate new passwords which are more secure than the ones you can likely think up.
- When back on https://haveibeenpwned.com/ regularly. New hacks are always happening.