ASHLEY MADISON (AM) … The ‘’Friend’’ Who Betrayed You

Potential implications of the Ashley Madison (AM) leak are endless. It’s a frightening illustration of the life-ruining ‘possibilities’ from security lapses and cyber theft. A sad tale about the lack of honesty in most relationships.  And a wake-up call highlighting the ‘potential’ ruination for anyone targeted by lynch mobs. A trial by Facebook, a jury by Twitter, in the court of public opinion! That’s a dangerous place for anyone to be…

We use technology with the ‘implicit assumption’ our details will be protected. We share data, expecting companies to take care of it, protect it, and more importantly, protect us. However, most of the time, they don’t. In an era where personal data is the currency of “free”, privacy is the price we pay.

Even if you’ve never used Ashley Madison, this story should make you re-evaluate your Internet use and re-examine your privacy requirements. It should also encourage you to closely scrutinize the personal devices you use daily. Privacy is d-e-a-d. Remember that.

Ashley Madison Users (Like Most People) Are Unaware


WWW.METROLIVINGZINE.COM NEWS IMAGE CREDIT Image: washingtonpost.com (A false sense of anonymity in a crowd).

Considering how many Ashley Madison members used their personal credit cards for user credits, an ‘implied trust factor’ is obvious. Users aren’t stupid, they’re just uniformed, like the rest of us. For the most part, intricacies of the internet remain foreign to people outside the tech industry. It’s difficult to explain to a non-tech expert that erasing ‘anything’ from the Internet is like collecting red wine from a swimming pool. And signing onto certain websites as a member, from the privacy of your own laptop, (under the false ‘assumption of anonymity’) is ‘naïve’ … at best.

Who Were The Hackers And What Motivated Them


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It’s debatable whether these hackers were white hats or black hats. But the Impact Group (a powerful hacking community) has claimed responsibility for the Ashley Madison (AM) hack. They do NOT express affiliation with the hacker collective known as Anonymous or another well-known entity, the Lizard Squad. According to their statement, Impact Group took issue with Ashley Madison’s “fraud, deceit and stupidity”. They felt the public deserved to know the following: (1) AM lied about performing the full data deletions they charged customers for. (2) AM were not providing the privacy assurances they claimed to provide. (3) Apparently, AM manipulated male users to join or buy more credits after joining, with fake female profiles? (4). They thought this should be outed before Ashley Madison, and its parent company Avid Life Media, obtained the IPO they were seeking.

When asked about their motivations for the hack, Impact Group said: “We didn’t blackmail users… but any hacking team could have. We’re not blackmailers. We did it to stop the next 60 million people from getting suckered.” On August 18th, they published all user profiles, transactions, credit card data, and a wide range of other sensitive data on a section of the deep web. A place accessible mainly to tech experts and not navigable by average Internet users. The sheer mass of sensitive personal information, the number of users affected, and obvious skill of these hackers, may be a signal that everyone should prepare for what’s to come.

The hackers involved in this act have ‘appointed themselves’ moral judge, jury, and executioner. And this is also the first time hackers have gone after regular citizens rather than those of perceived power or status. I acknowledge the Impact Group’s anger over Ashley Madison’s practices, but I DON’T understand the motive behind exposing average people’s private lives because they themselves judged it immoral or unseemly. Hackers have an obligation to do what’s right (IMO). But I’ve seen as many black hats as white hats recently. And when all the LULZ and snickering is done, I pray this is not the start of a new trend, where hackers dump all sorts of personal data, about anything and everything, merely for fun or entertainment.


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While the Impact Team did highlight AM’s shady practices, they committed crimes themselves in the process. This hacking group will likely evade authorities through sheer skill and level of expertise. But in the minuscule chance they are apprehended, they face ‘possible charges’ of theft, mischief to property, extortion, criminal harassment, and intimidation.

Everyone Wants A Piece Of Something Or Someone


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When did being scavengers of other people’s misery become commonplace? It’s been a frenzy of vultures since the data release. Reputation management companies are cashing in, charging panicked cheaters upwards of $100,000 per day. Rogue hackers are drumming up new business soliciting personal private investigation contracts from the worried and suspicious. Individual hackers are spamming worried AM users desperate to find out what’s been leaked about them. For divorce lawyers, it’s an early Christmas. Blackmailers and extortionists are having a field day. Bitcoin appears to be the blackmailers’ payment of choice. We’ve seen reports of hate crimes. Spouses are prematurely filing for divorce. The lynch mob is on fire! Witch hunts are pending. Otherwise sane citizens are giddy over the first opportunity to look up dirt on friends and neighbours … and then there’s Ashley Madison.

It’s true. Ashley Madison did everything the Impact Group accused them of. It’s also ‘arguable’ that AM, and their parent company Avid Life Media, tried to hide the breach by giving little notice of a hack that had occurred 30 days earlier. In addition, Ashley Madison (And Avid Life Media) failed to provide answers or advice to frantic users about their own data. And provided no guidance regarding how to deal with the fallout. Essentially, they left members to scramble, yet the adulterers’ site is still going strong.  Zero brand credibility may bankrupt Avid Life Media. Additionally, a lawsuit is being filed for AM users, under the “John Doe” pseudonym, claiming punitive damages plus severe emotional distress. Still with me?

What About The Cheaters


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Cheating happens. I’m not condoning infidelity. But it’s a frequent reality people refuse to acknowledge.  What happens within a relationship is that couples business. No one else’s – Every marriage has challenges. And most of the time cheaters don’t get caught.  What makes this case unique is that adulterers have been outed, ‘en-masse’, in front of the whole world to see. The Internet has turned society into a small town – And anyone can be tossed into city center and publically shamed – These days, when a story breaks, the lynch mobs, nosy neighbors, and judgmental sinners salivate. The whole thing is alarming…

Obviously, married users of Ashley Madison have the most to lose. They face divorce, public humiliation, and loss of career – Along with bankruptcy through divorce, loss of child custody, and judgement from others about their trustworthiness in general. Their unknowing spouses also face public embarrassment if the cheating spouses is outed. What about the partners who don’t want to know or those who know but deliberately look the other way? What about those with an open marriage who fear judgement for their liberal views? Do the unknowing spouses deserve to be humiliated as well? The phrase “Mind your own business” comes to mind here.


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For many, though, their biggest fear might be being forced to confront their own marital unhappiness. This momentous event will inevitably force many couples into discussions. Discussions they may not have had for years. It will mean couples’ therapy for some and a repaired stronger-than-ever marriage for others. And to the rest, it’s a much-needed catalyst of finality to end something that’s been over for years anyway.  A politician or actor is prepared to deal with such fallout – But average people have little or no coping skills for dealing with possible ruination. A few of the outed have already ended their lives. With the possibility of more to come, as the database becomes more publically accessible.

Legal Punishments v.s. Social Consequences – There Is A Difference.

For the holier – than – thou, self – proclaimed perfect, in the words of Matthew 7:3 (NRSV): “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but can’t notice the log in your own eye?”  Breaking the law has legal punishments. Breaking a moral code, such as infidelity, has social consequences. And in the age of social media, lynch mobs and vigilante justice, jail for infidelity, may seem a welcome respite for some.

 


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So far, repercussions from the Ashley Madison hack have been mild. But it’s only a matter of time until someone takes it upon themselves to create an organized and easily-searchable database, pull it out of the dark web, and post it on the Internet. People will search for their spouses, neighbours, and colleagues. This is probably inevitable. However, anyone who thinks someone else’s embarrassment is entertaining is a bit of a bully. Getting joy from someone else’s pain is not the sign of a hero OR a good citizen. At best, it’s self-righteous bullying behavior.  At worst, it may be the sign of a psychopathic / sociopathic illness.


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The sad reality is, IF your skeletons are outed, you’re tossed into the spotlight and stripped naked of your defenses … left to drown in your mistakes as the lynch mob hunts you day and night. What a ride.  Any volunteers?

Are You Worried About Your Own Privacy?

All of us (each and every one of us) have things we’d rather keep private. Even if we’ve lived life by the book (according to society’s standards), we still want that cocoon of privacy around us, or at least the perception of it. However, every day, there are new security breaches. And every day, more private information is shared with companies and strangers. Everything you’ve ever texted, written, emailed, commented on … every page you’ve ever visited, every website, every video you’ve viewed. All of that can be looked up, collected, and potentially used against you. Medical records and tax returns, too. How about if everyone’s porn site visits are publicly released? All your bank account information? Or your kids’ grades in school? Your credit rating? Details of your painful divorce? Your poor performance reviews at work? Private email conversations between you and your significant other? No one deserves to be stripped bare and thrown to the lions – But these days, we’re all at risk of having our lives stripped bare for all to see…


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So before you celebrate the comeuppance of a few friends, colleagues, pubic figures, and even strangers, remember, it’s all fun and games until it happens to you. And in today’s digital age, it might just be you next. Technology has infiltrated every facet of our lives. Technology is here to stay. And we cannot live without it. We need to forgive ourselves for being gullible. We need to be smarter / more aware. And we need to create a personal strategy to deal with the increasing risks of data breaches that have become commonplace.

SOCIETY – Are We All A Bunch Of Fakers And Hypocrites?

 


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When Shakespeare said, “All the world is a stage and all the men and women merely players”, he may have been right. The drama surrounding Ashley Madison occurred because married people had something to hide. They lived to please others instead of being honest with themselves. They feared being judged, being ostracized, or losing the ‘façade’ of a happy life they were living. Lacking the courage to tell their spouse it’s been over for years. Staying with their spouse to avoid financial ruin or potential career damage. Yet, we all hide a little don’t we? Few of us are open books because the world is a cruel place. A place where people will use indiscretions against you.  So we self-protect against public scrutiny – Obviously some have more to hide than others.  But in the end, it’s debatable if the humans have evolved from savagery at all – Or if we’ve just gotten better at lying to ourselves and to others. We’re just better actors.


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Whether Ashley Madison users signed up out of curiosity, for an online fantasy, or for an actual affair, who knows? But, the ‘intent’ to cheat was behind every member who signed up. Otherwise, they would have gone to Tinder or Match.com, for example. Indeed. They signed up knowing exactly what the site was about, and went fishing. Whether the ‘intent’ to cheat is enough to end a marriage is something only the parties involved can decide. It’s their business. I wish every couple a resolution to their obvious relationship problems – Whatever that resolution is for them.


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For what it’s worth, when we examine the evidence, it’s hard to deny that the overwhelming majority of men using Ashley Madison weren’t actually having affairs – ‘Apparently’ many of the female profiles were fake. So, in the end, men were sold on hope and they paid for a fantasy. Invited by a wingman who was a crappy friend? If the site survives, maybe they should rename it: “Ashley Madison – where the women ‘aint’ been… “.  But, unlike users of Ashley Madison who never got what they paid for, when it comes to internet privacy, (have no doubts) we’re ALL getting screwed…