2 Important Lessons to Learn From the Ashley Madison Hack

2 Important Lessons to Learn From the Ashley Madison Hack

No matter how you feel about Ashley Madison’s business model, we can all admit there’s a lot to learn from the website’s recent data breach.

In case you don’t have all of the facts, here’s a quick update: Ashley Madison is a dating website that catered to married men and women with wandering eyes. Earlier this month, it was was revealed that an undisclosed group of hackers had gained access to the private data of 32 million users. The hackers claimed their attack was a response to Ashley Madison’s account deletion process in which users are charged $19 to have their account completely eradicated from Ashley Madison’s records. When the hackers released the user’s names to the public, it became immediately clear that Ashley Madison wasn’t keeping their end of the bargain.

Needless to say, as consumers who regularly hand over our personal data to all sorts of web-based services, the Ashley Madison hack raises all kinds of questions about data security. Here are just a two lessons we can take away from the embarrassing situation:

1. You Are Your Best Security Option

Although it’s easy to smirk at the victims of the Ashley Madison breach, it’s worth remembering that we all have personal (and maybe even embarrassing) information that we’d like to keep away from the public. Just think about your cellphone, which is really just an archive of personal data. What if someone gained access to your photo stream or your text messages? Chances are you’d be embarrassed.

In reality, you have to take measures to protect yourself. If a website offers to conveniently store your credit card number to expedite future purchases, opt out. Remember, a promise isn’t always a guarantee. The site may say it’s keeping your data safe (and it will happily delete it at your request) but that doesn’t mean it’s true. Also, when it’s time to upgrade your phone, make sure you buy something with two-step identity verification, such as the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. The two-step verification means that anyone who wants to access your data needs both your passcode and your fingerprint. It’s more than likely that you are the only person who has both.

2. Treat Your Data Like It’s Sacred

In the early days of the Internet, people were much more cautious about sharing personal data. Now, consumers tend to operate from the position that all websites are safe until proven otherwise. We’ve all typed our names, email addresses and credit card information so many times that it would almost seem strange not to share this data.

To some extent, Ashley Madison took advantage of this impulse. It made adultery seem less untoward by making it look like just another data transaction. The $19 dollar account deletion fee was basically a punishment for signing up first and asking questions later.

What can we learn from this? For one, it’s worth taking a second to ask yourself a few questions before handing over your personal data. Do you trust this site? Does the risk of giving out your data outweigh the value you stand to get from it? Is there even a small chance that you’ll regret it tomorrow? Your identity is really all you have, so take pause before handing over a copy.

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