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Infidelity Platform Ashley Madison is Beset by Hackers

cnbc.com

Just when you think you've unpacked every dark corner of the internet, you stumble into a new one. Ashley Madison, and other similar sites operate on a basic, soul-cleaving premise: matching up people who want to cheat on their partners. The site boasts an enormous user base and its owner, Avid Life Media, runs another two cheater platforms: Cougar Life and Established Men. Now, in a story that might draw the validity of the term 'two wrong don't make a right' into sharp question, the sites are all being held to ransom by hackers.

The data streams for all three sites (and potentially several more) have been compromised and some user information has already been leaked online. It's since been taken down, but the hacker group, going by the name 'The Impact Team', are threatening to continue leaking data unless the Ashley Madison and Established Men are both permanently shut down. According to their statement, they plan to leak the data for every single AM user. All 37 million of them.

As well as just revealing the names of millions of unfaithful partners, many of the accounts contain detailed sexual fantasies, nude photos, addresses, credit card transactions and much more. It's probably a fair assessment to suggest that the leak would ruin millions of lives. It would also make Avid Life Media liable for fraud, so there's that.

To say it's a double-edged sword is a stark understatement. Whilst any site that actively promotes infidelity is pretty morally reprehensible, the people who frequent the site are not necessarily to blame for the nefarious ethos behind it. That being said, a lot of them are probably massive jerks. Does that mean hackers should have free reign to vomit their junkies (that's 'junk selfies') all over the interweb? Absolutely not, but I'd say that's a fairly unlikely outcome. The hackers don't even really want that, one of their largest complaints is that AM users are charged £15 to carry out a 'full delete' of their account and data. This means, ironically, that The Impact Team are holding Ashley Madison to ransom - for holding their users to ransom.

Supposedly though, even if users do the full delete, some of their data is still retained. The validity of that claim is still pretty questionable, though. I can't imagine any version of this story which ends with the hackers making good on their sizeable threats, but equally a complete shut down of the Ashley Madison and Established Men pages seems just as implausible.

If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that the whole thing will probably end up fizzling out, some compromise will be reached or the data will somehow be recovered. Whatever happens though, it's a timely reminder of how quickly personal data can move from safe to unsafe, and that online discretion is only applicable until somebody else decides it's a luxury you don't deserve.


Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Infidelity Platform Ashley Madison is Beset by Hackers Reviewed by Callum Davies on Monday, July 20, 2015 Rating: 5

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