By Erin Bloodgood
Elm Staff Writer
Ashley Madison, a website devoted to connecting married people who want to have an affair, has been under attack for the past several weeks by a hacker, or group of hackers that call themselves the Impact Team. “Fortune Magazine” reported that the Impact Team threatened the company with the potential hack towards the end of July if they did not shut down their site immediately. The hackers stated that they did not agree with what Ashley Madison stands for, or their practice of charging users $19 to wipe user data from their site, which according to the hackers was not really being erased.
Officials at Ashley Madison assured the public that they had a secure site, but just a few weeks later the Impact Team hacked Ashley Madison and released 10GB worth of customer information such as email addresses and credit card information. With so much personal information floating around on the web users began to file lawsuits against the company. The hack has even resulted in the suicide of two Canadian residents.
Although Ashley Madison is doing what it can to regain its security after the first release of data came another even larger release. The Impact Team released 20GB of customer data on Aug. 18th, shortly after the first set of data. Supposedly, over 33 million customer details were posted online. Not only did the Impact Team leak confidential consumer data they also leaked the source code or blueprint of the Ashley Madison website, which could lead to more potential hacks by other hackers.
The leaks have lead to public figures such as Josh Duggar (of “19 Kids and Counting” fame and child molestation infamy) and state lawmaker Allen Peake admitting to having an Ashley Madison profile. The leaks have the potential to cause embarrassment and could also pose a blackmailing threat to users. According to “Business Insider,” there may have been over 15,000 military and government email addresses registered on the site, although it is currently unclear if any or all were fake as Ashley Madison does not require a user to validate their email address. Signing up for a website like Ashley Madison with a military email address is prohibited by the Department of Defense.
ITPro, a U.K. information technology analyst website has been covering the story since the first threat in July. According to ITPro Noel Biderman, the CEO of Ashley Madison has resigned from his position after the hack. Despite the hack thousands of new customers have joined the site, according to the Ashley Madison blog..
This situation is not so cut and dry. Yes, exposing people’s highly personal information without their consent will get you in legal trouble, but shouldn’t Ashley Madison also be held accountable for their lack of security? People looking to have an affair are looking for discreet confidentiality which has now been compromised twice in one month. They’re also paying Ashley Madison to be on the site in the first place so shouldn’t there be an understanding of privacy and security?
Regardless of anyone’s feelings on cheating, it’s still illegal in some states, although not usually taken seriously. According to the New York Times, adultery is still illegal and considered a felony in 24 states, such as Virginia and Massachusetts. Should a company be able to profit on something that is illegal in almost half of the United States? Although the company that owns Ashley Madison is based in Canada they have plenty of US customers.
Is a site like Ashley Madison objectionable to begin with? Some would say so, but is that a reason to compromise the reputations and lives of millions of people? Was Ashley Madison really wiping the data that they were charging people to wipe? Are new people really signing up for the website after 30GB of leaked personal information? Is Ashley Madison being honest with its users and the general public? The Ashley Madison hack is far from being solved and leaves myself and I’m sure a few others with some thinking to do about right, wrong, accountability, and honesty.