On Tuesday Aug. 18, hackers released over 9.7 gigabytes of information about the Ashley Madison website, including the names of its 37 million users. Ashley Madison, a dating online service based in Canada, was launched in 2001. The network services encourage married women and men and anyone in a committed relationship to find other unfaithful partners online in order to “have an affair.” The name of the cheating site was strategically chosen, taking two of the most popular female names to attract males. The hackers known as Impact Team, had already threatened the dating site. Impact Team told the users that they are in possession of all data and that the only way to prevent them from publicizing the information was for Ashley Madison and fellow Avid Life Media site EstablishedMen.com to stop all activity permanently. The hackers also told the users who had paid the fee of nineteen dollars to delete their accounts permanently while their account information is still available. Established Men is a site for young and beautiful women to find wealthy suger daddies to help them with their fancy lifestyles.
The over 37-million total Ashley Madison users are located in 53 different countries including Saudi Arabia, where adultery is punishable by death. The hackers “included full names, birth dates, marital statuses and, perhaps most damningly, intimate details about its users’ kinks and sexual preferences,” The Washington Post explained. The hackers also demonstrated that Ashley Madison is a male-dominated platform with over 31 million male accounts versus only 5.5 million female accounts. “There’s a good chance that about 12,000 of the profiles out of millions belonged to actual, real women who were active users of Ashley Madison,” Gizmodo editor-in-chief Annalee Newitz said. The site’s parent company, Avid Life Media, told NBC News that “no current or past members’ full credit card numbers were stolen.” Security expert Graham Cluley noted that many of the users’ names can be fake since Ashley Madison did not have a strong policy requiring the e-mail addresses’ verification. He said, “I could have created an account at Ashley Madison with the address of email@example.com, but it wouldn’t have meant that Obama was a user of the site.” That includes the companies that store your e-mails and your text messages; the ones you use to track your schedule and your finances; the ones where you shop and watch porn and fill your prescriptions. Avid Life Media Inc, the website’s parent company, is offering a $379,132 reward to catch the hackers, but has no solution to help the millions of families affected by their infidelities.
In the past, Target, Home Depot, OPM and many other major corporations were affected by cyber terrorism. It is no longer shocking to see the largest corporate affected. “But we’ve never seen a breach even half as ruinous or as imminently destructive as the one that just exposed 36 million possible adulterers to a gawking public,” The Independent said. This hack will have long-lasting repercussions. “This breach has the potential to ruin the lives of millions of people,” Eric Chiu, co-founder of cloud security firm HyTrust, told NBC News. Families will inevitably suffer grandly. Two people from Toronto committed suicide one week after the information was released. In the U.S., a pastor and a professor at New Orleans Baptist Seminary, John Gibson, also committed suicide. When his wife Christi returned from work, she found the body of the man she had loved. She had to tell their two children, Trey and Callie, that their father was dead. In a letter discovered next to his body, Gibson “talked about his depression, he talked about having his name on there and he just said he was very, very sorry. For John, it carried such a shame,” his widow Christi told CNN. Additionally, the Ashley Madison hack has affected celebrities such as “a Hollywood actor, an NFL star and a top politician, among dozens of celebrities frantically calling up pricey damage limitation experts over the Ashley Madison hack,” according to Daily Mail Online.