Fri, Aug 21, 2015 - Page 7 News List

Ashley Madison dump may ruin reputations

SCHADENFREUDE:The hackers’s release of a cache of data is to be a boon for some, with divorce lawyers, therapists and cybersecurity firms all expecting a spike in business

Reuters, TORONTO

Avid Life Media chief executive officer Noel Biderman gestures next to a poster advertising the Japanese version of the Web site, Ashley Madison, on April 1 last year.

Photo: AP

Love lives and reputations might be at risk after the release of customer data from infidelity Web site Ashley Madison, an unprecedented breach of privacy likely to rattle users’ attitudes toward the Internet.

Hackers dumped a big cache of data containing millions of e-mail addresses for US government officials, British civil servants and high-level executives at European and North America corporations on Tuesday, the latest cyberattack to raise concerns about Internet security and data protection.

The breach has been a big blow to Toronto-based assignation Web site firm Avid Life Media, which owns Ashley Madison and has indefinitely postponed the adultery site’s initial public offering plans. However, many professions stand to benefit from the unfolding saga, from lawyers to therapists to cybersecurity firms.

Prominent divorce lawyer Raoul Felder said the release is the best thing to happen to his profession since the seventh commandment forbade adultery in the Bible.

“I’ve never had anything like this before,” he said.

The data dump began to make good on the hackers’ threat last month to leak nude photos, sexual fantasies, real names and credit card information for as many as 37 million customers worldwide of Ashley Madison, which uses the slogan: “Life is short. Have an affair.”

The public embarrassment and emotional toll is likely to be enormous on unsuspecting people whose affairs might have been exposed online or even whose e-mails were used without their knowledge to sign up for the site.

“These poor people will be dealing with it in such a public way. It will be absolutely devastating,” said Michele Weiner Davis, a marriage therapist in Colorado and the author of Divorce Busting,adding that for the partners or spouses, the initial shock is likely turn to anger and then a deep feeling of hurt and betrayal.

“It’s no picnic for the unfaithful partner either,” she added.

Ashley Madison members would likely be best served by coming clean instead of waiting to see if their indiscretion is discovered, couples therapist Janet Hibbs said.

“Fall on your sword if you want to save your relationship,” she said. “Be prepared for them to ask a lot of questions, to not be defensive, to be compassionate.”

The data release could have severe consequences for US service members if found to be real. Several technology Web sites reported that more than 15,000 e-mail addresses were government and military ones.

Adultery, under certain criteria including the misuse of government time and resources, is a crime in the US armed forces and can lead to dishonorable discharge or imprisonment.

The hackers’ move to identify members of the marital cheating Web site appeared aimed at maximum damage to the company, which also runs Web sites such as Cougarlife.com and EstablishedMen.com, causing public embarrassment to its members, rather than financial gain.

“Find yourself in here?” said the group, which calls itself the Impact Team, in a statement alongside the data dump. “It was [Avid Life Media] that failed you and lied to you. Prosecute them and claim damages. Then move on with your life. Learn your lesson and make amends. Embarrassing now, but you’ll get over it.”

The lists were dumped on the so-called “dark Web,” which is only accessible using a specialized browser, but the database was being decrypted and made more widely available.

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