By now, you’ve probably heard water cooler whispers and seen tabloid headlines about the Ashley Madison.com scandal, a website for extramarital affairs that was hacked this summer – and the private list of members released to the public. The aftermath certainly isn’t pretty, but not just because of the ethical issues of cheating that will certainly end a lot of relationships and damage families. But the hack also raises other important issues in our society, like internet security, cyber terrorism, privacy, the roles and rights of companies to protect us, web misrepresentation, cyber black mail, and the impact of wrongdoing by those in public office and the public sector. Far from a juicy celebrity expose like much of the reporting we’ve seen about the Ashley Madison scandal, we decided to present only the cold hard facts so you can really better understand the greater threat to our society…and why the ramifications of these secrets, sex, and scandal aren’t going away any time soon.
40 Facts about the Ashley Madison.com hacking scandal:
1. AshleyMadison.com is an internet website with the sole purpose of introducing members so they can engage in extramarital affairs, either with other married members or single people. Making attempt to hide the site’s true purpose, its slogan is: “Life is short. Have an affair.”
2. It was founded in 2001 by Neil Biderman, an attorney and sports agent in Toronto. Biderman was a self-described “happily-married father of two.”
3. He named the site after a combination of two popular girls’ names at the time.
4. AshleyMadison.com is owned by Avid Life Media.
5. Web traffic experts estimate the site to have nearly 75 million monthly users, ranking as the no. 408 most popular site on the Internet.
6. Neil Biderman reports that 70 percent of AM users are men, mostly in their late 30s to early 40s, with the female demographic skewed a little younger.
7. Forty-five percent of AM’s visitors come through referrals from other sites.
8. Most users are from the United States (28.6 percent), with Brazil (7.2 percent), Canada (5.9 percent), and Spain (5.7 percent) ranking as the next nations where AM is most popular. Australia, Colombia, and England are also represented.
9. In the United States, the majority of users are from New York or Los Angeles.
10. In July, a notorious Internet hacking organization called the Impact Team first claimed that they had hacked the Ashley Madison website and servers, obtaining the entire company database of sensitive member information.
11. The Impact Team threatened to publish the entire database of member records unless Avid Life Media permanently took down AshleyMadison.com and a similar site, Established Men.
12. Avid Media refused to cave to their threats, instead contacting law enforcement and authorities and calling it a “cyber terrorism threat.”
13. When Avid Life Media failed to take down their sites, the Impact Team responded with this public statement:
14. “Avid Life Media has failed to take down Ashley Madison and Established Men. We have explained the fraud, deceit, and stupidity of ALM and their members. Now everyone gets to see their data. Find someone you know in here? Keep in mind the site is a scam with thousands of fake female profiles. 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.
15. “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.”
16. The hackers then followed up on their threat, posting the AshleyMadison.com database containing the names, email addresses, home address, IP address, credit card numbers, and other sensitive information of about 37 million members.
17. The database, totaling 9.7 gigabytes of data, was first made available only on the Dark Web in two chunks, a back-end technical network mostly out of site of common internet browsers.
18. Within minutes of the data breach, people started searching through the database and began portioning the information into more viewable formats on .com websites and torrent sites for lay people to access, like Trustify, Cynic.al, and Have I been pwned?.
19. CheckAshleyMadiscon.com was a mega popular site for a few days – until Avid Life Media had it shut down by threatening legal action for copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
20. But internet security experts warn against normal people trying to download the list, as it can open them up to malware and viruses that could steal their data or cripple their computers.
21. More importantly, the database is technically stolen property – similar to a pirated movie or music album – so downloading it could open you up to legal action for copyright violations.
22. One of the startling discoveries was that there were 15,000 .mil or .gov email addresses in the database, meaning they were emails assigned to government or employees.
23. The U.S. Army and other branches of the military are investigating, as under military rules, adulterers can be punished with a year in military jail and dishonorable discharge.
24. Other than countless cheating spouses that were busted when the names were exposed, university professors, social activists, a prominent Hollywood actor, a high-level exec for Coca Cola, an NFL star, and a former politician from the west coast were on the list.
25. Reality television star Josh Duggar of ’19 Kids and Counting’ was on the list, finding himself in serious hot water and admitting “I have been the biggest hypocrite ever” for extolling traditional values on his show.
26. Jionni Lavalle, husband to Jersey Shore’s Snooki, was on the list.
27. Josh Taekman, husband of Kristen Taekman, star of the reality show ‘Real Housewives of New York City,’ was listed as a member. He originally vehemently denied it but later admitted his guilt. His profile name on the site was ‘Mr Big NYC’
28. Tori Spelling of True Toril and formerly 90201 was shocked to hear that her husband Dean McDermott was on the list.
29. The PR and social watchdog company, Reputation Management Consultants, which charges clients $10,000-$100,000 a month for its services, has reported receiving a litany of calls from panicked high-profile clients after the hack.
30. Two state senators – Senate Majority Leader Tommy Noment, R, and Senator Donald McEachine, D, were one the list.
31. Two Arkansas state representatives – Reps. Mark Lowery, R and Rep. John Baine, D were on the list, as well as a former Arkansas Supreme Court Justice were on the list.
32. Two Republican politicians from Louisiana, GOP Executive Director Jason Dore and councilman Ryan Heck, were on the Ashley Madison list.
33. Jeff Ashton, Florida State Attorney who acted as prosecutor in the Casey Anthony murder trial, was on the list.
34. Hunter Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, was also on the list, though the Biden son claims – amid credible evidence – that someone else set up the account after hacking his email account, which he doesn’t use anymore.
35. There were also 804 email addresses from Microsoft employees, 313 from Apple employees, and 76 from Bank of American employees, 2 USA email addresses, and even a dozen emails with profiles name claiming to be President Barack Obama, proving that it is possible for hackers to recreate email accounts in other peoples’ names.
36. A profile existed for noel.binderman.mail.7z, creating speculation that the founder and CEO of the cheating site was cheating, himself.
37. Ashley Madison is also exposed as a cheat far beyond their role in enabling adultery. In fact, the company claims that there are about 70 percent men and 30 percent women members. But hackers exposed that there are actually only about 15 percent women, and of those, a majority were fake accounts, populated by Ashley Madison themselves to entice more male subscribers. The real numbers are unknown, but the Impact Team claims that 90-95% of all users are male, and the rest, fakes by the tens or hundreds of thousands.
38. After the hack, a handful of members reported receiving emails extorting them for.05 Bitcoins – roughly $300.
39. A $576 million class action lawsuit was filed against the Ashley Madison parent company this month for failing to protect members’ data.
40. Plenty of other people are cashing in on the Ashley Madison scandal, including comedians, reputation management companies, internet security experts, marriage counselors, an internet flower delivery site who advertised an “apology flower” special, and divorce attorneys, one of who told Business Insider, “It’s going to be Christmas in September.”