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The Future of Security: A Roundtable

Software hacks have compromised cars, baby monitors, and IRS tax returns. Can we do better? Join our discussion.

On August 24 of last year, John Gibson, a 56-year-old New Orleans pastor and father of two, was found dead in the house he shared with his wife of 30 years. Six days earlier a hacking gang calling itself “Impact Group” had dumped on the Internet a stolen user database from the website Ashley Madison, an online dating service for those seeking an extramarital affair. Gibson’s was one of 32 million names in the leaked list. In his suicide note, according to the Washington Post, Gibson wrote that he couldn’t bear the shame of having his secret life exposed.

Gibson’s was one of at least three suicides linked to the Ashley Madison breach, itself the most personal in an epidemic of network security incidents that roiled 2015. In February, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield — the nation’s second largest health insurer — revealed the wholesale theft of names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and other details on 80 million current and former customers and their families, including millions of children. The same month the US Office of Personnel Management announced that hackers had stolen security clearance applications for 20 million government workers. In May, the IRS disclosed that Russian identity thieves had made off with tax returns for 100,000 Americans — a number later revised to 300,000.

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