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Ashley Madison and the Revenge Hack

C. A. Goldberg PLLC

Ashley Madison and the Revenge Hack

August 19, 2015

KrebsOnSecurity confirmed that the AshleyMadison.com data dumping is the real deal and they theorize it’s an inside job.

[Insert bad joke about data and cheating husbands both getting dumped today. Abstain from dumb joke that hackers are tech-savvy divorce attorneys.]

As you may recall, last month, the dating website that pairs up likeminded cheaters was hacked by an anonymous entity calling itself Impact Team. At the time, Impact Team demanded that Avid Life Media (ALM), the owner of AshleyMadison and its brother site, EstablishedMen, shut down both sites. Impact Team threatened to release intimate data about the 37 million cheaters who use the sites if Avid Life remained operational.  (Astonishingly the number of Ashley Madison consumers has increased to 38,855,000.  Increased?! Really?!)

Now, 30 days later, the media is reporting that indeed the hackers followed through. Though there was initial doubt as to whether this was the real deal, KrebsOnSecurity confirmed indeed the juice is loose.

Remember, Impact Team’s original beef with ALM was that they were misleading users by offering them the option of paying $19 to close and delete their profiles. However, instead ALM was retaining account information. Nonsensically, the very users bamboozled of this $19 for whom Impact Team felt outrage, are among those whose account information Impact Team now released.

In its statement titled “TIME’sUP!” Impact Team continues to be delusional about the criminal and civil liability it faces if found, instead stating “It was ALM that failed and lied to you. Prosecute them and claim damages.”

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The released data is hosted on TOR by Quantum Magazine/Q7765 which tells viewers to “[p]lease use this data responsibly.” How one might “responsibly” use the released data — passwords, logins, private messages, naked pictures, credit card information – is baffling.

I struggle with the fact that I completely agree with yesterday’s statement by smarmy Anthony Macri (a Bushwick version of Eminem per his business photo) the Director of Social Media for AshleyMadison.com:

This event is not an act of hacktivism, it is an act of criminality. It is an illegal action against the individual members of AshleyMadison.com, as well as any freethinking people who choose to engage in fully lawful online activities. The criminal, or criminals, involved in this act have appointed themselves as the moral judge, juror, and executioner, seeing fit to impose a personal notion of virtue on all of society. We will not sit idly by and allow these thieves to force their personal ideology on citizens around the world. We are continuing to fully cooperate with law enforcement to seek to hold the guilty parties accountable to the strictest measures of the law.

Every week sees new hacks disclosed by companies large and small, and though this may now be a new societal reality, it should not lessen our outrage. These are illegitimate acts that have real consequences for innocent citizens who are simply going about their daily lives. Regardless, if it is your private pictures or your personal thoughts that have slipped into public distribution, no one has the right to pilfer and reveal that information to audiences in search of the lurid, the titillating, and the embarrassing.

Many celebrate this hack, gleeful that cheaters are getting their comeuppance.  I suggest we stay out of other people’s bedrooms, even when the lurid details of those bedrooms are on a platter for us on the Internet. Those reveling in the hack, calling it a karmic triumph, should self-examine. Not just their own relationship and trust issues, but do they really condone the idea that the right to privacy should be on a continuum based on a person’s moral turpitude? And have they themselves never done anything morally questionable?  People are swarming to this information in a way they would not if, say, a health insurance company were hacked, and that is because they believe the victims deserve it. This approach to privacy – the idea that some people deserve for their private information to become entertainment – is a real problem. The Internet has created a marketplace where there is a value to other people’s humiliation. In this case, the hackers attempted to exploit that value to coerce ALM to close shop, to no avail. This mob revelry – and even sexual gratification – for “humiliporn” drives millions to dedicated revenge porn sites, motivates people to retweet sexual assaults, and is why so many couldn’t resist clicking on those pictures of Jennifer Lawrence.  Many people blame victims of nonconsensual porn for having taken the images in the first place and feel it is their right — even duty — to look and share and harass the victims.

Whether it is nonconsensual pornography or hacked financial or medical information, there is rarely criminal consequences for downstream sharing of the information already hacked, nor for the hosting of that information as long as it was uploaded by somebody other than the site operator.

As long as we condone privacy invasions based on the personal values of those entertained by it, we are promoting a real lawlessness.