Hackers publish extra-marital affairs website Ashley Madison’s customer data online

Dating website for married people had data stolen last month

The hacking of the extra-marital affairs dating website Ashley Madison represents a new phase in internet history. It highlights a complete breakdown of trust between humans.

Firstly it draws attention to the broken trust displayed by users, who are going out of their way to cheat on their spouses; secondly the trust between users and the website itself must now have been seriously compromised; and finally, the hackers, who have gained the data in order to hold the service to ransom (they want the website shutdown), are indicating their moral anger at the whole concept – a lack of faith in the website’s 38 million users.

The website’s tagline, “Life is short, have an affair”, is accompanied on its homepage by an image of a woman putting her finger to her lips to indicate secrecy.

Without secrecy, the whole venture serves the exact reverse of its initial purpose – it is now at risk of becoming the means by which infidelities are broadcast to the world.

And that is exactly what is happening.

The customer data, which reportedly includes the real names, addresses and credit and debit card details of the site’s users, has been leaked by the hackers to various groups on the internet.

Currently much of the data can only be viewed by encrypted browsers, nonetheless, some users have managed to find their information in the leaked database, according to a security blogger quoted by the BBC.

UK government among users?

Despite encryption some details can be found on the leaked database.

According to political blog Guido Fawkes, there are over 130 people who signed up from government email addresses. “Guido counted around 130 people who apparently signed up to Ashley Madison with gov.uk email addresses,” the site said in an article this morning.

Avid Life Media, the company behind Ashley Madison and companion website Established Men, released a statement which said:  “This event is not an act of hacktivism, it is an act of criminality. It is an illegal action against the individual members of AshleyMadison.com, as well as any freethinking people who choose to engage in fully lawful online activities.

“The criminal, or criminals, involved in this act have appointed themselves as the moral judge, juror, and executioner, seeing fit to impose a personal notion of virtue on all of society. We will not sit idly by and allow these thieves to force their personal ideology on citizens around the world.”

In total, 9.7 gigabytes of data were stolen, according to tech website Wired.

Ashley Madison operates in 50 countries across the world, and says it has “38,855,000 anonymous users”.

But how many of those 38.9 million will remain anonymous? It looks like there may be a few “darling, I’ve got something to tell you” conversations on the cards across the world over the coming weeks.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • This is of exactly the same seriousness as those who hacked celebrity private photos. A full investigation by the police is required and prosecution of those that hacked the data or publish the data. is required.....

    and just because its just wrong, but it leaves the opportunity for blackmail and resulting security issues (the .gov?).

    The other question is why was the identifying private data internet facing to begin with?
    How many other web sites are exposed, medical records etc?

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