Monday, July 20, 2015

Ashley Madison hackers threaten to release consumer PII unless site shuts down, a form of "criminal" vigilante moral activism?

A popular website, “Ashley Madison” (belonging to Avid Life Media), whose tagline is “Life is short, have an affair”, has reportedly been hacked (by “The Impact Team”), with attackers threatening to divulge the PII of up to 37 million users if the site is not shut down. Krebs Security has a story here.  The actual data for the site is supposedly on the "Dark Web" and requires special browsing tools like TOR. 

Information about the fantasies of subjects (which the hackers called "cheating dirtbags") was reported available for 90 minutes.  
This is the first hack that I can recall (other than Sony Pictures) directed at a site just because of political or moral disapproval of its content.  (Various random small businesses around the country have reported radical Islamic hacks.) 
There’s also controversy over the offer to remove a profile for $19.  Ars Technica questioned the credibility of this practice in an article by Megan Geuss in Aug. 2014, here

Update: Aug. 19

Media outlets report that a lot of details were released today by hackers for vigilante "morality enforcement" motives.

Early notes from analysis of the release by John Herman, here,  Tim Lee on Vox has an explanation here.  One danger is that people could have been entered onto the site without their knowledge. 

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