Turning inner space into outer space

August 22, 2015

The Ashley Madison affair: Don't trust the Internet to cover up for you

The lesson to be learned from the Ashley Madison debacle is this: If there is something you wouldn’t do in real life — because it’s embarrassing, immoral, dangerous or whatever — don’t think you can get away with doing it on the Internet.

The thousands who signed up with Ashley Madison so they could cheat on their wives or husbands are learning this hard truth after hackers broke into the site’s servers and dumped the files on the Internet where anyone with a little search savvy can find them.

Ashley Madison is quick to point out that the real criminals are the hackers, who call themselves the Impact Team. Its customers, they add, are not breaking any laws.

That may be true, but the site does promise anonymity, suggesting that people who use the service fear some kind of consequence if they are found out. In fact, this desire for anonymity is so strong that Ashley Madison was offering to permanently erase members’ files for an extra fee.

Some might call this a form of blackmail. According to interviews with the hackers, many people paid the extra fee, but the company never (for reasons that are not clear) followed through.

This is the situation that prompted the Impact Team to act.

I imagine there are suspicious wives and husbands all over North America sifting through the data dump to see whether their spouse is a member. We may even see a spike in the divorce rate.

Already, the Canadian Press has found credit card data attached to computers at the Department of National Defence and the House of Commons. No doubt, workers from all political parties are busy checking the backgrounds of their candidates. Cheating may be legal, but there are great swathes of the electorate who would never vote for a cheater.

The Impact Team, which appears to be made up of former employees, released a statement saying that the site contains thousands of fake female profiles and that 90 to 95 per cent of users are men: “Chances are your man signed up on the world’s biggest affair site, but never had one. If that distinction matters.”

Of course, in many cases that distinction won’t matter — marriages and careers will be ruined.

Robin Williams summed it up best: “The problem is that God gives men a brain and a penis, and only enough blood to run one at a time.”

Whole industries have taken advantage of this.