Last month Brian Krebs reported that the Ashley Madison database was compromised. Ashley Madison is a dating site that targets married folks who are looking to have affairs. Needless to say, there is a lot of risk for users if their data is found on the released data. Today what is supposedly the Ashley Madison data was released.
The release of this data can have some significant impacts on the site members. Of course there’s the problem of credit card numbers being stolen, but that’s something most of us have to deal with on a regular basis. But there can also be significant relationship repercussions if/when a spouse discovers that their partner has registered on a site to have affairs.
When I first heard of the compromise I wondered if they had my data. You see, they have one of my spamtraps on their unsubscribe list. It just so happened that I visited an unsubscribe link, hosted by Ashley Madison (http://unsub.ashleymadison.com/?ref=2). This was during the time when I decided to unsubscribe from all the spam coming into one of my spamtraps. Is my email address going to be a part of this data dump? If my email address is there, what name do they have associated with it? This is the trap that gets mail addressed to multiple other people. Maybe it’s my email address but their name. Are they at risk for relationship problems or legal problems due to my attempt to unsubscribe?
Of course, Ashley Madison had no incentive to make sure their data was correct. In fact, they were sued for faking data to entice paying members. How much of the released data is false and will there be real harm due to that?
I expect in the next few days someone (or multiple someones) will put up a website where those of us who are curious can search the data. I just hope that people realize how much of the data is likely to be false. Even Arstechnica cautions readers from jumping to conclusions.
Assuming the download turns out to be authentic, people should remember that it was possible for anyone to create an account using the name and e-mail address of other individuals. That means an entry for a given individual doesn’t automatically prove the person was behind it.
Still. There are probably a lot of people worried about this release of data.