Lessons from the Ashley Madison Breach

“Hi, my name is Ashley Madison. I can help you cheat on your spouse… for a fee of course. I am very gender biased too; I just maintain the good old tradition that men pay for sex. So on my platform, men pay to join and women join for free. In case you’re wondering why you should break your marriage vows, the answer is short and sweet –“life is short”. I promise you confidentiality on the World Wide Web; Oops! Okay…well, until someone hacks into our website”.

These past few weeks have been really rough for Ashley Madison. In case you missed the news outbreak, here is an update. A Canada-based entrepreneur created a dating site over a decade ago and called it “Ashley Madison”. Online dating sites are no news. However, Ashley – as I fondly call it- was targeted to people who are married or in committed relationships to cheat on their partners. Literarily, their catchphrase is “Life is short, have an affair”. Like every other business that involves sex, CEO of Ashley is doing well, with some sources estimating a worth of $100 million. Don’t be surprised! Earning money off humans’ indiscretion is a tale as old as time.

Since I met Ashley, it’s more glaring that adultery is gaining some serious status. Ashley is one the biggest pimps of our time; with Forbes reporting that men typically pay an average of $200 to $300 a year. That might look small until you multiply it by the millions of users. As an omo-naija (Nigerian), I multiplied it by another 200 naira; I wanted to faint.

Victory turned sour a few months back, when Ashley was hacked. The hackers requested that Ashley in addition to another site ‘Established Men’ (A sugar daddy site by the same parent company) be permanently closed or information on users will be released. This was me thinking – “they didn’t ask for money? WOW! The world is full of surprises”. Their request wasn’t fulfilled and the hackers released account details and log-in information for over 30 million past/present users. The information released included emails, home addresses, credit card information and sexual preferences/fantasies of the users. It’s as simple and embarrassing as scrolling to see if your house address or husband’s/wife’s name/email is on the list.

Since Ashley’s black book was exposed, things have taken several turns for a lot of people and their families. Some people have even committed suicide. Whether it was a lapse in judgement or a bad habit, the lives and families of the people’s names on that list will not remain the same.  The ones that were public figures or held religious positions experienced their humiliation on a larger scale. I imagine some of you readers are already rolling your eyes, pouting your mouth, hissing, saying things like ‘good for them’ or adding curses to your reaction-salad. E duro (relax), we are not yet at the ‘judgement’ segment of this piece; don’t worry it is coming.

Adultery or cheating is a habit as old as dirt; however, that is not the focus today. What caught my attention was why people will choose to create a public record of their infidelity. Truth is, most people don’t want their dirty laundry aired in the public; but, sadly, we barely have that choice anymore. Electronic gadgets and social media in various forms have become the center of most our lives. We do all sort of things with them – good and bad. Something we are not proud of is a click away from being put on world display. Even if the site is private, hackers now make the world go round.

Mistakes or bad habits/characters now have what seems like a permanent record. It’s difficult to delete something completely off the internet. In case you didn’t know, the fact that you deleted something from a social media account or email or anywhere, doesn’t mean it cannot be retrieved. It takes years of training to be able to wipe information completely off the internet; most of us can’t afford it. This internet we have all come to love will be the death of so many people’s dreams, careers, relationships or even lives, if caution is thrown to the wind. The rest of us are just in line, a wrong choice away from the same fate. Exposing lives and habits of people has also become a major money-making business. Blogs, Magazines, Vlogs, etc. have made and will continue to make a fortune from this.

It’s time to judge! Not the men/women on Ashley’s list but the face you see when you look in the mirror. Judge yourself; is your private life worth viewing in public?
Internet and technology has brought us to a crossroad – Live a sincere/straightforward or don’t – none of which will be an easy option. Life is full of choices and consequences. Regardless of what you choose, it’s a date with the devil; fish out your long-spoons because dinner will take a while.  WWW (World Wide Web) and all the gadgets have come to stay. Cheers to the loss of privacy and constant exposure of secret lives!

Image via Wired

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Comments
  • Avatar

    Hmmm.. it’s only a matter of time and they’ll figure out a way block these hackers. As much as I don’t support cheating, everyone is entitled to their privacy. Hacking is wrong and criminal. Too bad for them but whomever did that clearly didn’t want money but set out to humiliate them. Most likely they would have still released the information even if they heeded to their demands.

    So it’s not about the kind of business Ashley was about. Even legitimate businesses could experience such. They need to find a way to put a stop to hacking as soon as possible.

    This lady is so eccentric. But I can’t say it’s bad for business.

    MY MOTHER-IN-LAW IS DEAD AND I DON’T FEEL SAD. HELP! http://alocovivavoce.com/2015/10/02/my-mother-in-law-is-dead-and-i-dont-feel-sad-help/

    October 2, 2015
    • Avatar

      Thanks for your comment! I wont say ‘hacking’ is wrong. There are so many positive things that hackers do; people actually study and train for that. However, just like every skill, you can use it for good or evil. I’m not sure what the intention of the hackers were, but the demand they placed pointed to something more than material gain.

      October 3, 2015
      • Avatar
        OHIO

        To me that was some ‘moral blackmail’ and i wish Ashley had heeded to the threat or better still negotiated with the hacker(s).

        And as for hacking, i think it has come to stay for better or for worse but the worst that could happen (which is already happening) is these brainnac operating from the wrong side of town: organised crime group or terrorist group.

        And yes i think we have the right over our private lives but this knowledge of hackers hovering over our cyber space like the ‘eyes of god’ will def serve as a reality check to the things we do (online) in private.

        October 11, 2015
  • Avatar

    After watching CSI: Cyber, I became officially scared of the internet and EVERYTHING electronic.

    October 2, 2015
  • Avatar
    Anonymous Aboki

    Hey Winifred, good piece. Timely too – seems particularly apt as we watch the Lekki Liar drama unfold..

    I watched TWTR’s launch on CNN, but didn’t join till much later, & I’m almost inactive on it. FB too, I didn’t join when it was all the rage..

    I have (always had) something against putting everything out there. Now, by everything, what I really mean is just 2 correct details about yourself. With just your name & maybe job, or school, the world knows everything about you; power of the internet..

    You are not allowed to live anymore, with the Internet. Still, some will now come & be “misbehaving” up & down – kai, they’re playing rugby with your destiny..

    That said, your last paragraph is word to the mutha!

    October 2, 2015
    • Avatar

      Hi Anonymous Aboki, thank you! Internet came and the world became a small coin; we just have to find ways to deal with it.

      October 3, 2015
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    PRIVACY IS A MYTH. A very big myth. It’s just something to make us feel safe and then they throw a little virus into the mix and we panic and spend billions on antivirus tools.

    My advice is not to worry and just keep living. If you knee how unsafe the internet was, there would be a mass panic and rioting. That formatted memory can still be recovered, your webcam, microphone, piece of cake. Web history that you think you deleted, it can be recovered. Even snapchat? I laugh. That instagram account you opened and never used even once? It can be found. You block me on twitter or FB or any other site, waste of time.

    I have dug up people’s history on the web before, even social networks they no longer use , myspace, naijapals, nairaland, and many more. The thing with hacking is that it’s fucking extensive, It’s a whole universe on its own. It’s not about knowing how to code or such. It’s about understanding the system and how it works.

    My laptop had a black tape over the webcam, microphone driver is uninstalled. I know my information is being stolen somewhere, i can’t stop it but i can definitely feed them wrong info.

    October 2, 2015
    • Avatar

      Hi Nosa, you are right; privacy is a myth. It really doesn’t exist.

      October 3, 2015
  • Avatar
    Syca

    It’s interesting to note that the company was considering an IPO before this mess happened. So it was going to list on an exchange and sell it’s shares to the public.

    It had revenues of $115m last year, and values itself at $1bn

    October 2, 2015
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    True talk pple cuz d term privacy only really does exist in our subconscious… That being said, kudos to u Winnie Pooh! *smiles*

    October 4, 2015
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    Hackers and the ton of information they will continually expose will always be with us. If it was built by man, it can be hacked/destroyed by man.

    It amuses me how paranoid people get with all the measures they take to protect their private information on the net. The simple rule remains, if you don’t want people to find it, then don’t create it and later on apply a slather of privacy lock downs to it.

    In fact, if you use something as simple as an email account, it’s already too late.

    October 6, 2015
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