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Hackers Blackmail Adultery Website Ashley Madison, Threaten Users

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. | Last updated on

Hackers have stolen the personal information of millions of users of Ashley Madison, the dating website for married people looking to have an affair. The hackers, who call themselves The Impact Team, are demanding that the website shut down -- or else they'll release the stolen customer data, including real names and addresses, revealing the identity of millions of potential adulterers.

Is nothing sacred anymore?

37 Million Cheaters Have Never Felt So Betrayed

Ashley Madison, whose slogan is "Life is short. Have an affair" had bragged about its data security in the past. It also offered a "Full Delete" service which, for a price, claimed to remove all evidence of a user's profile. Neither its security nor its Full Delete service seem to have been as good as advertised, however.

The data breach was first reported by cybersecurity blogger Brian Krebs, who received a copy of The Impact Team's "manifesto." The hackers appear to have been motivated by Ashley Madison's Full Delete service. Assume some of Ashley Madison's 37 million users had changed their minds about the whole affair thing. 

For $19, Full Delete promised to completely erase their profile and associated data -- or so they were told. For the repentant two (or three or four) timer, having that information laying around could be risky, leading to -- I dunno -- potential blackmail? Except, according to the hackers, Full Delete didn't work. They write:

Full Delete netted [Ashley Madison's parent company, Avid Life Media] $1.7 million in revenue in 2014. It's also a complete lie. Users almost always pay with credit card; their purchase details are not removed as promised, and include real names and address[es], which is of course the most important information that users want removed.

Can no one in the adultery industry be trusted?

The Risk of the Online Boudoir

The Ashley Madison hack highlights the risks that arise when traditionally private private "romantic" activities move online. In the past, lonely souls looking for an affair, fling or quick hook up would have to troll a seedy bar or take a "business trip" to Vegas. Now, a lot of that activity is taking place online -- and that can put users at risk, should a website get hacked.

It's not just adulterous spouses who are vulnerable, either. Ashley Madison's sister properties, Cougar Life, for women looking for younger men, and Established Men, for the more traditional rich man, young woman combo, were also hacked. Last March, the hanky panky website Adult FriendFinder was hacked, exposing the information of 3.5 million users. Each hack raises the risk of blackmail, or at least public embarrassment.

For its part, Ashley Madison is now offering free profile deletion -- a bit late for most of its users.

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