Ashley Madison, the online dating site that pairs married men and women together for the purpose of having an affair, has been hacked.
At risk are the names, sexual fantasies, and credit card numbers belonging to millions of registered users who are currently cheating – or hoping to cheat – on their partners. For those cheating on the sly, release of such information could be problematic – to say the least.
The breach was first leaked on blogger Brian Krebs’s website on July 15.
The hackers, who call themselves The Impact Team, are threatening to release the confidential information if Noel Biderman, founder and CEO of Ashley Madison, does not immediately shut down the site that actively encourages infidelity by using the slogan, “Life is short. Have an affair,” to attract its clients.
Ashley Madison’s users presently exceed 37 million and reside mostly in the United States and Canada.
In a long manifesto sent to the company along with details of the stolen information, hackers stated their demands:
“Avid Life Media has been instructed to take Ashley Madison and Established Men offline permanently in all forms, or we will release all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails. The other websites may stay online.”
Hackers went on to express their anger with the $19 service known as “Full Delete” which Ashley Madison offers customers to permanently delete their personal information from the site. The service netted Avid Life Media $1.7 million during 2014 but, according to the hackers, does not do what it purports – instead retaining users’ credit card numbers, real names, and addresses in its database.
Avid Life Media, Ashley Madison’s parent company, reassured its customers by saying, “At this time, we have been able to secure our sites, and close the unauthorized access points. We are working with law enforcement agencies, which are investigating this criminal act.”
In addition to users’ personal information, hackers are also threatening to leak maps of internal servers, employee account information, company bank account data, and salary information.
To date, hackers have only published a small amount of data, but they threaten to publish more for each day the site remains online.
Biderman suspects the hack came from someone with intimate knowledge of the company, perhaps a former employee or contractor but says investigators are close to confirming who is responsible.
The hack of Ashley Madison comes on the heels of a hack to online site, AdultFriendFinder, back in March when more than 3.5 of its 64 million users’ sexual preferences, fetishes, and secrets were released.
Ashley Madison’s owner, Avid Life Media, is a Toronto-based firm and also the parent company of hookup sites Cougar Life and Established Men.