NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — It’s 2015, and if you still think you can use your real name online and stay private, you’re insane.
The news: Cheat-on-your-spouse website Ashley Madison got hacked. Hackers are threatening to reveal the names of its 37 million cheating users.
The lesson: If you give a company your name, credit card number, photo — don’t expect it to stay secret forever.
No website can guarantee privacy. Every computer can be hacked. That’s the reality.
The federal government lost millions of personal records and fingerprints. Adult FriendFinder exposed 3.5 million people’s sexual fetishes. Anthem, Community Health Systems, Premera, UCLA Health — they all compromised Social Security numbers. Albertson’s, Home Depot, Neiman Marcus, P.F. Chang’s, Target, Staples, SuperValu — they all lost your credit card data.
Here’s the dirty little secret only computer engineers know. The way the Internet was built, it’s inherently insecure. It’s like sending paper notes on an automobile highway in a war zone.
To keep your notes private, mathematicians come up with complex algorithms to encrypt communication. It’s like putting military armor on your car as it drives down that perilous road.
But in reality, the enemies always find a way to pierce the armor.
Some websites don’t even use encryption. It’s like forcing you to ride naked on a bicycle.
Some websites use encryption that’s outdated. It’s like sending you out there with rusted armor.
Some websites claim to keep you safe, but use second-rate encryption. So, you’re basically driving a lemon.
Lots of people keep using glitchy software like Adobe Flash. It’s like occasionally lowering the window and sniffing the mustard gas.
Hackers keep getting stronger weapons. Today’s armor just won’t protect you from the weapons of tomorrow.
And even if you’re really careful online, the devices themselves get infected with malware. Even if you made it to the military base on the other side, don’t celebrate yet. Because you just handed your note over to a guy who’s actually a spy.
So don’t be surprised by the Ashley Madison hack. Scoff aloud that cheaters thought they could get away with it.
Welcome to the 21st Century. And memorize this survival guide haiku mantra.
Everything is tracked.
Internet is insecure.
This story was first posted on CNN.com, “Don’t share secrets online. You will be hacked.”