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  • Cheaters Beware! Extramarital Affair Website Ashley Madison Has Been Hacked.

    In yet another cyber-attack, extramarital-affair website, Ashley Madison whose slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair,” was hacked and the attackers are threatening to leak the compromised data online, unless their demands are met. The controversial website was founded in 2001 and has approximately 37 million members who use the site to find partners for infidelity.

    Data security expert, Brian Krebs, revealed the hack on his site, stating that a group calling itself The Impact Team was responsible for the hack and said it had stolen user databases, financial records including salary information, and other records. The group is threatening to release all customer records, including sexual fantasies, credit-card details, and real names and addresses, unless the site is taken off permanently.

    The Impact Team claims that its core issue is that Ashley Madison charges customers $19 for a “full delete” of profiles, netting $1.7 million in revenue in 2014, but does not do what is promised. “It’s also a complete lie,” the group claims. “Users almost always pay with credit card; their purchase details are never removed as promised, and include real name and address, which is of course the most important information the users want removed.”

    “We apologize for this unprovoked and criminal intrusion into our customers’ information,” the company stated. “We … have had stringent security measures in place, including working with leading IT vendors from around the world. As other companies have experienced, these security measures have unfortunately not prevented this attack to our system.”

    The company, however, claims to have the situation under control. “Using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), our team has now successfully removed the posts related to this incident as well as all Personally Identifiable Information about our users published online. We have always had the confidentiality of our customers’ information foremost in our minds and are pleased that the provisions included in the DMCA have been effective in addressing this matter.”

    For a company like Ashley Madison, discreetness is the most important aspect for its members. If the hackers are true to their word, the exact information that people were trying to hide could be displayed for all to see, including their spouses and significant others. Additionally, even if Ashley Madison is able to stop the hackers from leaking their members’ information, the company will certainly lose a lot of business as a result of this scandal. In 2014, Ashley Madison had $115 million in revenue and was projected to top $150 million in the coming year, which is now unlikely to happen.

    Businesses are encouraged to review their cybersecurity policies to ensure that they are protected, especially if they store sensitive customer information. Amid recent attacks, it appears as though no one is safe so it is imperative that companies take extra precautions to protect the data of their customers.

    If you or your institution has any questions or concerns regarding cybersecurity related issues, please email Cynthia A. Augello at caugello@cullenanddykman.com or call her at (516) 357-3753.

    A special thank you to Lauren Dwarika, a law clerk at Cullen and Dykman LLP, for her assistance with this blog post.