Hack­ers ex­pose mil­lions on cheat­ing site; some in United States gov­ern­ment


Hack­ers say they have ex­posed un­faith­ful part­ners across the world, post­ing what they said were the per­sonal de­tails of mil­lions of peo­ple reg­is­tered with cheat­ing web­site Ash­ley Madi­son.

A mes­sage posted by the hack­ers along­side their mas­sive trove ac­cused Ash­ley Madi­son’s own­ers of de­ceit and in­com­pe­tence and said the com­pany had re­fused to bow to their de­mands to close the site.

“Now ev­ery­one gets to see their data,” the state­ment said.

Ash­ley Madi­son has long courted at­ten­tion with its claim to be the In­ter­net’s lead­ing fa­cil­i­ta­tor of ex­tra­mar­i­tal li­aisons, boast­ing of hav­ing nearly 39 mil­lion mem­bers and that “thou­sands of cheat­ing wives and cheat­ing hus­bands sign up ev­ery day look­ing for an af­fair.”

Its owner, Toronto-based Avid Life Media Inc., has pre­vi­ously ac­knowl­edged suf­fer­ing an elec­tronic break-in and said in a state­ment Tues­day it was in­ves­ti­gat­ing the hack­ers’ claim. U.S. and Cana­dian law en­force­ment are in­volved in the probe, the com­pany said.

The As­so­ci­ated Press wasn’t im­me­di­ately able to de­ter­mine the au­then­tic­ity of the leaked files, although many an­a­lysts who have scanned the data be­lieve it is gen­uine.

Trust­edSec Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Dave Kennedy said the in­for­ma­tion dump in­cluded full names, pass­words, street ad­dresses, credit card in­for­ma­tion and “an ex­ten­sive amount of in­ter­nal data.” In a sep­a­rate blog, Er­rata Se­cu­rity Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Rob Graham said the in­for­ma­tion re­leased in­cluded de­tails such as users’ height, weight and GPS co­or­di­nates. He said men out­num­bered women on the ser­vice five-to-one.

Avid Life Media de­clined to com­ment Wed­nes­day be­yond its state­ment. The hack­ers also didn’t im­me­di­ately re­turn emails.

The prospect of mil­lions of adul­ter­ous part­ners be­ing pub­licly shamed drew wide­spread at­ten­tion but the sheer size of the data­base — and the tech­ni­cal savvy needed to nav­i­gate it — means it’s un­likely to lead to an im­me­di­ate rush to di­vorce courts.

“Un­less this Ash­ley Madi­son in­for­ma­tion be­comes very easily ac­ces­si­ble and search­able, I think it is un­likely that any­one but the most para­noid or sus­pect­ing spouses will bother to seek out this in­for­ma­tion,” New York di­vorce at­tor­ney Michael DiFalco said in an email. “There are much sim­pler ways to con­firm their sus­pi­cions.”

Although Graham and oth­ers said many of the Ash­ley Madi­son pro­files ap­peared to be bo­gus, it’s clear the leak was huge. Troy Hunt, who runs a web­site that warns peo­ple when their pri­vate in­for­ma­tion is ex­posed online, said nearly 5,000 users had re­ceived alerts stem­ming from the breach.

Although many may have signed up out of cu­rios­ity and some have lit­tle more to fear than em­bar­rass­ment, the con­se­quences for oth­ers could re­ver­ber­ate be­yond their mar­riages. The French leak mon­i­tor­ing firm Cy­belAn­gel said it counted 1,200 email ad­dresses in the data dump with the .sa suf­fix, sug­gest­ing users were con­nected to Saudi Ara­bia, where adul­tery is pun­ish­able by death.

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