The Ashley Madison scandal, a violation and a reminder about security

Password cracking has become somewhat of a modern day past time, given the advancements that have been made in technology. Specifically, in the past five years there have been more privacy and password breaches than in the previous handful of decades combined. That is an exponential increase that makes us all exponentially at risk. Something that has paralleled this increase has been password reuse, which unfortunately correlates with network vulnerability.

Privacy and security on the internet have been two of the main themes passed around in discourse regarding the internet and personal identity for sometime now. This discussion has had a resurgence recently due to the Ashley Madison password crack, where a sophisticated group of hackers known as the Impact Team broke into the website that connects married individuals with others seeking extramarital sexual engagement and exposed all the user’s private information to the world. Now, this scenario obviously is a breeding ground for public shamming, as well as philosophical disputes regarding the principles of cause and effect. However, the focus of this article will not be on moral code, given the internet already consists of copious articles that ridicules and denigrates many of these innocent people who simply were engaging in their birth right – Freedom of Choice. Sure, if I wanted to I could bring out an alternative lens that would discuss a belief that takes into consideration an invisible specter world at work with the Ashly Madison scandal, a world riddled with unknowns and mystical oversight that provides an unspoken esoteric “checks and balance system”. However, these angles would position me on a pretty rocky soap box that I don’t feel at all privy to. Because at the end of the day, the truth of the matter is, when speaking in terms of legality and not subjective ethical positioning, all 37 million of these users who were exposed were indeed violated. Hands down. The bigger matter at hands here, which in fact more of the conversations on the internet should be tilted toward, is privacy and how to further protect our online identity.

The most important piece of information that has come out of this virtual scandal, which seems can’t be reiterated enough, is a problem that has already been discussed ad nauseam – password reuse. Really, perhaps we should all think about our passwords as condemns – use them once, never share with others, and when you do throw them out make sure they aren’t visible to the naked eye – bury or destroy them. Time and time again, albeit the millions of people being concerned about identity fraud, internet users still seem to be in constant denial that their accounts could be at risk. Using the same password over and over again for each and every online account is simply asking to be violated. Whether it be an Ashley Madison, Bank of America, or Facebook site, most people tend to believe themselves to be excluded from the rational of password variation, believing that, for some reason, they are immune to being hacked. The fact of the matter is, it’s simply not the case. Hackers do not discriminate, because if they can do it, they will. Point. Blank. So until everyone has thumb-print-protected passwords on their MAC and PC laptops, it would be a good idea to never use the same password for another site, in addition to constantly updating passwords on all accounts every 30 days.

Here are some tips for creating hard-to-crack passwords:

1) Never use your name or the word “password”. Basically, don’t be a nincompoop.

2) In fact, don’t use words at all. Words are universally ubiquitous, be more cryptic.

3) Always use at least eight characters or more. The longer, the more variations that need to be tried, meaning the more difficult to decode.

4) Contain characters that include numbers, capital letters, and multiple symbols from the top portion of the key board.

5) Completely go wild on your keyboard to come up with something entirely new and obscure. The only trick is, retaining it.

And remember, you don’t have to abide by the way of the technocrat. There is always the way of the luddite.