It’s not a good day for online cheaters.
On Tuesday night, making good on a threat they’d issued several weeks ago, a collection of hackers calling themselves “Impact Team” have now released the personal data of roughly 37 million customers from the dating website Ashley Madison. The site, which caters specifically to married people and uses the slogan “Life is short. Have an affair.” to advertise itself, had been faced with an ultimatum by the hacker group: Shut down, or we’ll expose your users. But the site stayed up, and it appears they will now have to deal with a major breach of user trust.
The information has been released to what’s known as the “dark web,” which requires specific browsers and routers to access. So for those looking to confirm or deny their own (or perhaps their spouse’s) exposure, it won’t be as easy as a quick Google search (though lists of email addresses are now popping up on more accessible parts of the web). Still, resourceful web surfers can reportedly access quite a trove of records, including log-ins and account details.
For their part, the site has denied some of the hacker’s claims, such as being in possession of credit card data. “We can confirm that we do not—nor ever have—store credit card information on our servers,” said Avid Life spokesman Paul Keable. Despite that claim, however, some security experts have reported finding at least partial credit card information included in the leaked materials.
In a terse statement released Tuesday, Impact Team once again described their grievances with the site and its owners. “Avid Life Media has failed to take down Ashley Madison and Established Men,” wrote the group. “We have explained the fraud, deceit, and stupidity of ALM and their members. Now everyone gets to see their data.”
As the statement went on, it seemed the group’s issues with the site had as much to do with the perception of fraud as it did any morality-based judgments. “Keep in mind the site is a scam with thousands of fake female profiles,” the group said. “See ashley madison fake profile lawsuit; 90-95% of actual users are male. Chances are your man signed up on the world’s biggest affair site, but never had one. He just tried to. If that distinction matters.”
In the end, it sounded as if Impact Team had a certain amount of sympathy for Ashley Madison’s users, saying “Find yourself in here? It was ALM that failed you and lied to you. Prosecute them and claim damages. Then move on with your life. Learn your lesson and make amends. Embarrassing now, but you’ll get over it.”
Avid Life is currently investigating the data breach, in conjunction with Canadian and US law enforcement.
Update: By the way, if you’d like to explore the dark web (otherwise known as the “deep web”), do so carefully.