“Life is short. Have an affair.”
That is the motto of the website Ashley Madison, which caters to people looking to have an extramarital affair.
But since a group of hackers calling themselves the Impact Team broke into the website’s server and now claim to have exposed data about its users, maybe “The Internet isn’t safe – have an affair, but do it offline,” seems more appropriate.
According to TMZ, the hackers posted the material on a darknet site, which require specific browser configurations or authorizations to access.
A message posted by the hackers alongside the leaked files accused Ashley Madison's owners of deceit and incompetence and said the company had refused to bow to their demands to close the site.
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"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 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 about a month ago 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.
In a press release issued in November 2014, Victor Hermosillo, Ashley Madison’s director for Mexico and U.S. Latinos, said that of the site’s 30 million users worldwide, 2.7 million or 9 percent were Hispanics living in the United States.
Of those, more than half, 53 percent, were of Mexican heritage – followed by Cubans (11 percent), Puerto Ricans (10), Salvadorans (7) and Dominicans (5).
A call to Avid Life Media by the Associated Press wasn't immediately returned. The hackers also didn't immediately return their 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 data breach 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 Ashley Madison breach.
The number of people who actively used the site to seek sex outside their marriage is an open question. But whatever the final number, the breach is still a humbling moment for Ashley Madison, which had made discretion a key selling point. In a television interview last year, Chief Executive Noel Biderman described the company's servers as "kind of untouchable."
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