An Affair to Remember: The Implications of the Ashley Madison Hack
The Ashley Madison hacking scandal is a veritable Pandora’s Box of not only infidelity but internet security. Tens of millions of people were expecting the highest level of privacy that the commercial web could offer as they conducted business that they wished to keep secret. This hack could be ruinous, personally, professionally and financially for a lot of people.
However, the implications for this are much larger than affairs and divorce settlements. For everyone else, the Ashley Madison hack will make them question every email, private message, text and digital transaction where security is expected to be top-notch.
As we know from the rolling news coverage, a group of hackers called “Impact Team“ stole the site’s 30m person database and transaction history going back to 2007 and released it online.
The details released includes users’ names, addresses and personal details, along with GPS co-ordinates and sexual preferences. Users as diverse as celebrities, business leaders and politicians are being outed as potential adulterers. This information could be used by the Impact Team or sold to others willing to put the information to work for them.
However, there is a far more sinister motive behind all of this. The Impact Team initially attempted to bribe Ashley Madison into removing their website before they released hacked customer details. This signals a change from hackers targeting people’s financial and bank account details in an attempt to steal money from them. It opens the floodgates to hackers using mass extortion to get what they want. We are only a hop, skip, and a jump away from hackers attempting to extort people out of sums of money by illegally obtaining sensitive online details.
Whether it is the emotional blackmail inherent in the Ashley Madison hack or stealing credit card details, both are morally reprehensible and illegal. Protecting customer details online has never been more important. And, protecting merchants who accept online payments from the resulting fraud of data breaches like this one is becoming more and more important.