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I am writing some text for a piece of software and am stuck with this sentence:

Use this function if you think that your private key has become known to a third party.

While the sentence explains very well when you should use a specific function, I take issue with the last part has become known to a third party. I feel that it's too long and not good enough to emphasize what I mean.

I have been looking at compromised, but that means that the situation happened because of indiscreet, foolish, or reckless behavior (Oxford American Dictionary), which might not be the case.

I also gave leaked a try, but that has the connotation that something was knowingly published to a broader audience, which is not what I am looking for.

What I am looking for is an adverb that explains exactly the situation, where a private key to access certain information was obtained by a third party, which can then use it for malicious purposes (they use it for themselves).

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The use of compromised referring to encryption keys which can no longer be trusted is something that has been used pretty commonly. If a third party has obtained a secret key something indiscreet has almost been guaranteed to have happened. Changing the phrase to "private key has been compromised" is short and to the point.

Given the context, I think compromised is an excellent choice.

  • +1 I agree that compromised is likely the best choice. Other options might be revealed or exposed. – user13141 Jan 10 '12 at 12:39
  • OP has already considered and nearly rejected the option. He has also explained why. – Kris Jan 10 '12 at 12:42
  • This fits exactly the question's last paragraph (assuming that adverb should be verb). – Tim Lymington supports Monica Jan 10 '12 at 12:53
  • I am inclined to accept this answer because of the reasoning that someone had to be indiscreet (even if it is not the user's fault). But I'll give the question a minimum 24h run before deciding. – Mike Jan 10 '12 at 13:38
  • @onomatomaniak, I had missed your "exposed" comment when I put that in an answer (oversight, not theft). Should I remove my answer? – Monica Cellio Jan 10 '12 at 16:12
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Per this answer, compromised is the best choice. If that is not acceptable, you could also say that the private key has been exposed.

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I understand your reasons for rejecting compromised, but I think it is the most common expression for this instance.

Since compromise won't suit, you might consider expropriated, which means "to take (something) from another's possession for one's own use."

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