Ashley Madison breach shows online privacy a thing of the past

  • 20/08/2015
Around 70,000 New Zealanders were signed up to Ashley Madison in 2012 (Reuters)
Around 70,000 New Zealanders were signed up to Ashley Madison in 2012 (Reuters)

Like VCRs, 8-tracks and Adam Sandler films which are actually funny, the age of protecting your privacy online has quickly become a thing of the past.

The dump of sexual fantasies, credit card details and the names of millions of would-be adulterers on infidelity website Ashley Madison shows that even secure information is not that safe.

Around 70,000 New Zealanders were signed up to Ashley Madison in 2012. The site is advertised as the "world's leading married dating service for discreet encounters".

But site users information has been published online as a result of a data dump by hacking group, Impact Team.

Otago University associate professor Hank Wolfe has a simple tip to safeguard private information.

Don't publish it online at all.

"Privacy is an illusion, there is no right to privacy. Whatever you put up, people are going to use," Prof Wolfe told NZN.

"This is the modern age of communication, where all communications can be intercepted."

And having faith in encryption software for confidential data isn't an iron clad guarantee either, he said, citing the US National Security Agency's still operational program BULLRUN.

"For the last five years they have spent US$250m a year to pervert all cryptographic programs that are in the public arena which you can buy."

"So the likelihood of you being able to get a tool that would protect your information, the probability is pretty low."

What it all comes down to is how big a target you believe you are for cyber sleuths, Prof Wolfe said.

"Each of us have to take a look at what we believe to be our practical risk."

"You don't cross the street without looking both ways, so that's one of the basic tenants of using the technology of today."

NZN