“Life is short. Have an affair,” as the dating website AshleyMadison encourages its 37 million members in 46 countries, and watch your personal information, including sexual fantasies, hacked and posted online for everyone to see.
24/7 Wall St says that would include 533,000 Los Angeles residents and 91,000 San Diegans, who may or may not have been cheating on a partner. Ashley Madison is full of people communicating with each other anonymously. Or, at least, they used to be anonymous.
Brian Krebbs at Krebbs on Security reported this week that a group of pissed-off hackers that call themselves “The Impact Team” grabbed a large cache of data from Ashley Madison’s parent company, Toronto-based Avid Life Media, and posted it online. They had been warned. The Impact Team’s manifesto reads, in part:
“Avid Life Media has been instructed to take Ashley Madison and Established Men offline permanently in all forms, or we will release all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails.”
So far, they have released just two profiles and linked to six repositories of information containing an estimated 2,500 more that were apparently shut down.
The group accused the company, which also owns Cougar Life and Established Men, of lying about a site feature that lets members delete their profile information for $19. They claimed to have found profile information of people who allegedly deleted themselves. The company claimed the delete works, and made the feature free in response to the attack.
Avid Life said it quickly responded to the attack with a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (pdf) request and “our team has now successfully removed the posts related to this incident as well as all Personally Identifiable Information (PII) about our users.”
That may not be the end of it. Material posted online for even a short time can take on a life of its own, exclusive of the original incarnation. Krebbs said he had links to the data but didn’t publish them for ethical reasons. Others may not feel similarly burdened about disseminating information and the Inquisitor reported that several locations have copies of the data.
Meanwhile, members wait and watch and scour Reddit for indications of having to make a pre-emptive strike at notifying their partner of embarrassing indiscretions.
Los Angeles ranked 5th in the 24/7 Wall St tally of Ashley Madison members, based on their numbers compared to the city’s population. Austin, Texas, was first at 5.6%, followed by Pittsburgh (5.6%), Boston (4.8%), New York (4.8%) and L.A. (4.1%). San Diego was 9th at 2.9%