#CyberFLASH: Why aren’t we talking about data security?

computer-laptop-keyboard-852With Canada’s federal election proceeding apace, and so many issues left uncovered within the scope of recent and upcoming debates, this column is focusing on tech policy issues that I think deserve further attention.

I draw the candidates’ attention to the issue of information security and data privacy.

It’s no secret that scads of data from ­infidelity-themed website Ashley Madison were released recently by a hacker group called Impact Team. Now this information is out in the wild, causing widespread panic.

As data security expert Troy Hunt said, “This incident needs to be approached with the understanding that for many people, this is the worst time of their life and for some, it feels like the end of it.”

That personal havoc would certainly go a long way toward explaining the suicides possibly linked to the hack.

But the Ashley Madison hack is only one episode in an ongoing story about how the Internet is broken, in large part because everything is broken.

As Quinn Norton, a journalist who covers the hacker culture, points out, “It’s hard to explain to regular people how much technology barely works, how much the infrastructure of our lives is held together by the IT equivalent of baling wire.”

The Ashley Madison hack, and other high-profile hacks, are just symptoms of an ongoing disease that poses a real threat to the quality of life for everyday people online.

Systematic attacks on personal information are nothing new, online. But they are becoming more popular, in part because news media are covering them more. Stories like the Ashley Madison story, or the Sony hack, or the Jennifer Lawrence and other Hollywood nudes, are almost impossible to resist. They’re the stuff that a gossip columnist’s dreams are made of. They also carry the promise of the illicit, of seeing the unseen and knowing the unknown, the seductive pull that makes all hacking attractive.

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