What We Can All Learn From the Ashley Madison Scandal

What We Can All Learn From the Ashley Madison Scandal

August 27, 2015|Posted in: Parenting, Tech

“Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” – Ben Franklin

Last week – as I’m sure you’ve heard by now – hackers posted online the personal data of some 32 million people who had registered on the cheater-pants website Ashley Madison.

Some of the registered users are OUTRAGED that their information has not only been stolen, but also posted to a handy-dandy and easily searchable database. Now there’s word that these users are threatening to sue Ashley Madison’s parent company, Avid Life Media, saying that the company didn’t take necessary steps to protect and encrypt user data.

All I have to say is: Are you kidding me?

As a lover of both irony and technology, I am befuddled by many aspects of this media firestorm.

It is 2015, is it not? In the past few years alone, billion-dollar data breaches have hit Target, Home Depot, Neiman Marcus, Tricare, TJ Maxx, The Bank of New York Mellon, Citibank, the VA, the PlayStation Network, Anthem (health insurance) and Snapchat — just to name a few. And then, of course, there are the thousands of other numerous worms, Trojans and nefarious cyber attacks that spread faster than room-temperature peanut butter on warm toast.

So you’re going to tell me that people STILL don’t know that nothing is 100-percent secure on the Internet?

That – SURPRISE! – a website like Ashley Madison, which touts itself as a destination for discreet encounters, would be the target of hacking group?

Again: Are you kidding me? If I had found out that a spouse was cheating on me through that site, and if I had hacking skillz, I would have gone all Lisbeth Salander on him and made it my life’s mission to break into that database and expose these hypocritical fools (Josh Duggar, anyone?) for who they really are.

I’m not even talking about the morality of the issue. I’m talking about the collective stupidity of 32 million people who thought that their information would be kept confidential. On a website.

Some of them even paid a fee to have their accounts “deleted.”

Ha. Ha. Ha.

I’m a writer and teacher by trade, but because I’m also a giant nerd, I love reading and learning about technology. I’m fascinated by those parts of the Internet that many folks don’t even know exist. These parts, which lurk on the Dark Web, aren’t accessible by search engines like Google or Yahoo. You can’t get to them unless you have special software and/or multi-layered authentications. Some parts of the Dark Web are completely harmless. Some parts are not. I may not be a hacker, but I worked for a cyber security company a while back and learned a whole lot about how easy it is for hackers to do what they do.

The point is, when it comes to computer programming, there are people hanging out on the Dark Web who are way smarter than the majority of us common folk. They spend countless hours finding weak spots in a corporation’s cyber-infrastructure. Why? Because they can. And once they find a way in, they can then sell the data to other criminals for a huge profit.

Give me a minute while I climb the steps to my soapbox.

If there’s anything that we, as adults, need to drill into our children’s heads, it’s that NOTHING – and I mean NOTHING – they do online is ever secure. Once it’s out there on the Web, it’s out there, never to be destroyed. I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines: Employees have lost jobs over Facebook posts. College students have lost scholarships to prestigious universities because of idiotic behavior they’ve posted on Facebook. Criminals have been busted because they’ve bragged about their crimes on social media. Well, duh.

Every email, Tweet or text you’ve ever sent is still out there, at least for a certain about of time, waiting to be retrieved. Just ask Tom Brady.

My daughter is only 5, and she still gets very little screen time. Also, I’ve disabled the Internet browser and the camera on the tablet she uses and set restrictions for numerous other apps and programs. A time will come, of course, when she’ll be left to her own devices (pun intended) when it comes to being online. And even though parental controls, including access to certain programs and websites, will be set, the hubs and I are not fools. We know that kids have ways of getting around EVERYTHING, and we are fully aware of the challenges and potential dangers that will come along with allowing our daughter to have her own smartphone or laptop.

The best we, as parents, can do is to reinforce repeatedly the fact that nothing we ever do online should ever be taken for granted — or considered 100-percent safe. Talk to your kids about how to stay safe online — not just once, but again and again and again.

And if you think your child knows better, make sure you watch this video – the whole thing. Then, go talk to your child about online safety again.

If this Ashley Madison nonsense has taught us anything, it’s that lives can be wrecked by what we do online. Let’s make sure our children aren’t caught in the maelstrom.

How do you protect your children from online threats? Share your advice by commenting below!

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