175,000 South Africans are undoubtedly trawling cyberspace right now to see if their real identities as users of the discreet adultery website, Ashley Madison, have indeed been revealed to the public.
According to tech news site, MyBroadband, the hacker group known as Impact Team has made good on its threat made in July to release the identities of 37 million Ashley Madison users. The group had promised to release the names, passwords and financial details of users if the site was not closed down.
The parent company promised it was investigating the breach but refused to shut down the site. They released the following statement in response to the data dump:
Last month we were made aware of an attack to our systems. We immediately launched a full investigation utilizing independent forensic experts and other security professionals to assist with determining the origin, nature, and scope of this attack.
Our investigation is still ongoing and we are simultaneously cooperating fully with law enforcement investigations, including by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Toronto Police Services and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.
We have now learned that the individual or individuals responsible for this attack claim to have released more of the stolen data. We are actively monitoring and investigating this situation to determine the validity of any information posted online and will continue to devote significant resources to this effort.
Furthermore, we will continue to put forth substantial efforts into removing any information unlawfully released to the public, as well as continuing to operate our business.
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. 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 cooperate with law enforcement to seek to hold the guilty parties accountable to the strictest measures of the law.
Every week sees new hacks disclosed by companies large and small, and though this may now be a new societal reality, it should not lessen our outrage. These are illegitimate acts that have real consequences for innocent citizens who are simply going about their daily lives.
Regardless, if it is your private pictures or your personal thoughts that have slipped into public distribution, no one has the right to pilfer and reveal that information to audiences in search of the lurid, the titillating, and the embarrassing.
We know that there are people out there who know one or more of these individuals, and we invite them to come forward. While we are confident that the authorities will identify and prosecute each of them to the fullest extent of the law, we also know there are individuals out there who can help to make this happen faster.
Anyone with information that can lead to the identification, arrest and conviction of these criminals, can contact [email protected]
More details have yet to be released about the situation. While some may approve of the hacking group’s actions, this should probably be a reminder that cyberspace is not a completely secure space for sharing sensitive information – whether or not the reasons for sharing the info meet society’s moral judgement.