Hackers seek to take down Ashley Madison
Avid Life Media, operator of AshleyMadison.com (a popular site for adulterers) has confirmed the legitimacy of user data published online today by hactivist group, Impact Team. The massive data dump was done last night and was posted through the Tor network (part of the “dark web” only accessible by a specific browser that doesn’t track traffic data).
Data was released on 32 million users, which includes names, usernames, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, descriptions of themselves, and the kicker – individual credit card transactions including the last four digits of their credit card number, the time, date, and amount paid, and from what IP address. Although the company maintains that they have never stored credit card information on their servers, many, like Quartz have reviewed the data and confirmed that transaction data and the last four digits of the credit card number are stored on the servers, but not the full credit card number.
How and why did this happen?
The hacktivist group, Impact Team threatened to release the information if Ashley Madison and sister site Established Men (which matches young women with sugar daddies) were not shut down.
In a statement, Avid Life Media stated, “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.”
Conversely, it is being said that Impact Team initially threatened to expose the database after discovering Avid Life Media allegedly promised to delete their users’ information from their database for $19, but the hackers were able to find the data still on the Avid Life Media servers and took issue with the alleged scam. Threats were made, action was not taken, and the hackers made good on their public promise.
How Eric Schmidt was vindicated today
“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place,” then-CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt tells CNBC, dismissing the importance of privacy. In 2009, when Schmidt made these claims, the internet exploded with rage, as the arbiter of our most personal data basically said there’s no such thing as privacy and that you should just behave.
Regardless of motive, the end result of the Ashley Madison breach is proof that there is no privacy, no secret dark corner of the web where you can misbehave. If your browser isn’t watching (and it is unless you’re using Tor), your computer might be (if you’re using Windows 10, you may not know the keystroke tracker is on), or your phone might be listening through it’s live microphone (that you turned on so you can say “OK, Google” from across the room), or your open laptop’s camera could be watching you (several lawsuits of people easily hacking into open cameras have landed people in jail).
So, like Schmidt said, “the reality is that search engines, like Google, retain this information for some time.” Privacy didn’t die, it never existed, it was an illusion, and we’re openly giving our privacy away. Time to reconsider your own bad behaviors online.