Being the victim of a corporate or governmental security breach and having your personal information fall into the hands of criminals is no fun. Whether you become a part of that unfortunate group because of your insurance company’s lax security or because you work for the federal government or are related to someone who does or even have done something so blameless as to shop at Target over Thanksgiving, it’s not too hard these days to end up with a few months of free credit monitoring and a nagging fear in the pit of your stomach that your life is about to get very complicated.
But for the folks involved in the current hacking scandal, the consequences could be much worse. They are looking at consequences a little credit monitoring can’t fix but then again, these folks are not as blameless as other corporate hacking victims. I am speaking, of course, of the 37 million customers of Ashley Madison whose names and other personal information were stolen by hackers in a quest to bring down the company’s website.
If you are not one of those 37 million customers, you may not have the foggiest notion who or what Ashley Madison is. It is the second largest Internet dating site, second only to Match.com. But what makes Ashley Madison special is the niche market it serves. Ashley Madison is a dating site for adulterers. It is where married people go when they want to have an affair and aren’t particularly concerned whether or not that affair is with someone they know.
Ashley Madison’s slogan, “Life is short. Have an affair.” leaves nothing to the imagination nor will the hackers if their demands are not met. Not your ordinary hackers, The Impact Team, as the person or persons claiming responsibility for the hack call themselves, they are also blackmailers. Blackmailers with a manifesto which is always a nice touch. In their manifesto, the Impact Team has demanded that Ashley Madison and two other sites owned by its parent company be shut down or they will release not only customer’s credit card information, but real names and addresses, nude photos, sexual fantasies and site conversations as well which has probably got a lot of adulterers wishing maybe they’d found a different way to bring a little excitement into their life.
I’m finding this to be the most fascinating of all the recent hacking scandals for several reasons. Mainly because of its lurid salaciousness, I have to admit but also the sheer magnitude of it — 37 million is a lot of philanderers.
Is the Internet responsible for all this illicit fooling around? Is fidelity just not as important as it used to be? The consensus among the folks I asked these questions is that cheating is wrong and selfish and always has been and always will be. They feel the Internet and social media are just tools. One friend sums it up like this: Technology only adds to infidelity the dubious benefit of being able to accomplish it with strangers.
But according to one friend who was badly hurt by an extra-marital affair, the Internet may only be a tool but it is a tool that made possible the destruction of her life. She is not so quick to find it blameless.
Also, these don’t seem to be your average hackers. They’re not just out to make a buck. They have an agenda. And a manifesto. They seem to be most angered by a company policy that charges customers $19 to completely erase their profile. Hackers battling corporate greed gives them almost a Robin Hood quality except they’re fighting for a bunch of cheaters. A whole bunch of cheaters who are probably wishing they’d ponied up the 19 bucks.
Avid Life Media, the parent company of Ashley Madison, was planning to launch an IPO on the London stock exchange and raise about $200 million but all the experts are saying that’s not happening in the wake of this mess. With 2014 revenue of $115 million, it would seem that facilitating adultery is a booming business. The only reason they haven’t gone public before now is that investment banks are too squeamish to handle such a tawdry business. How many stories involve moral concerns from bankers? This is better than a Lifetime movie.
So there are dozens of millions of people out there who want to cheat on their spouse and are willing to pay a website to help them do it. That website is making hundreds of millions glamorizing adultery and facilitating it. The president of the company says in interviews that when boredom sets in in a marriage, it’s better to have an affair than to get a divorce. His reasoning being that once the affair has run its course, everything goes back to normal. I’m pretty sure there are people out there whose personal experience differs from that narrative. And plenty more who are going to be finding out if the hackers carry out their threats.
So to sum this up, the adulterers could be publicly exposed. The company that made their adultery possible could see their extremely lucrative business collapse. Bankers failed to make a huge profit on a tawdry business. Everyone concerned is having a bad day.
Except karma. Karma is having a very productive day.
Bill Colvard is lifestyle writer for The Mount Airy News. Reach him at 415-4699 or on Twitter @BillColvard.