Last night hackers released a massive dump of data stolen from the adultery-dating website Ashley Madison, including details from 32 million user accounts. (More)

“Learn your lesson and make amends”

A month after demanding that Avid Life Media take down the adultery dating website Ashley Madison and a companion site Established Men, last night hackers released 9.7 gigabytes of compressed data that reportedly include personal information from 32 million user accounts:

The hackers appeared to target Ashley Madison and Established Men over the questionable morals they condoned and encouraged, but they also took issue with what they considered ALM’s fraudulent business practices. Despite promising customers to delete their user data from the site for a $19 fee, the company actually retained the data on ALM’s servers, the hackers claimed. “Too bad for those men, they’re cheating dirtbags and deserve no such discretion,” the hackers wrote. “Too bad for ALM, you promised secrecy but didn’t deliver.”
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“Avid Life Media has failed to take down Ashley Madison and Established Men,” Impact Team wrote in a statement accompanying the online dump Tuesday. “We have explained the fraud, deceit, and stupidity of ALM and their members. Now everyone gets to see their data…. 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.”

The hackers deflected responsibility for any damages or repercussions that victims of the breach and data dump may suffer.

“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,” they wrote.

“This event is not an act of hacktivism, it is an act of criminality”

Not surprisingly, Avid Life Media management see things differently:

“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,” said ALM.

“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. We are continuing to fully co-operate with law enforcement to seek to hold the guilty parties accountable to the strictest measures of the law.”

The Hacker News reports that both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are investigating the hack, but users at 4chan and elsewhere are already sifting through the data for users with government or corporate email addresses and at least one public figure has already been named.

“You know what’s not complicated? Outing.”

Last month Dan Savage wrote a thoughtful essay at Slog, contrasting the outrage in response to Gawker outing an executive with the sneering applause for the Ashley Madison hackers:

The news about the Ashley Madison hack is also generating a lot of outrage – but it’s not directed at the hackers who are threatening to out not just one guy for cheating on his spouse, but 37,000,000 people who may have cheated on their spouses or may have merely contemplated cheating on their spouses long enough to create an account at Ashley Madison. People are furious this time with the cheaters, not the outers.

Savage offers this insight from his years of answering readers’ real life relationship questions:

It’s not ideal, it would be great if everyone who felt compelled to cheat could either negotiate an open relationship or end the one they’re in now, but sometimes cheating is the least worst option. Slogging through the Savage Love mail for the last 25 years has convinced me of this: There are a lot of people out there who have good cause to cheat. Men and women trapped in sexless marriages, men and women trapped in loveless marriages, men and women who have essentially been abandoned sexually and/or emotionally by spouses they aren’t in a position to leave – either because their spouses are economically dependent on them (or vice versa) or because they may have children who are dependent on both partners.
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Marriage is complicated, cheating is complicated. You know what’s not complicated? Outing. That executive Gawker outed last week didn’t deserve it, and the members of Ashely Madison being outed today don’t deserve it either.

“This is why we don’t want the world to be run by highly-entitled low-empathy ‘hackers'”

I’m not sure if I agree with Savage’s discussion of cheating, but I am sure I don’t want peoples’ marriages being judged by strangers. Perhaps Russell Brown of New Zealand’s PublicAddress put it best in this series of tweets:

Hackers want power without accountability … and that is always a very dangerous combination.

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Photo Credit: AshleyMadison.com

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Good day and good nuts