Tag Archives: Ashley Madison

Ashley Madison Dating Site Agrees to Pay $1.6 Million Fine Over Massive Breach

Ashley Madison, an American most prominent dating website that helps married people cheat on their spouses has been hacked, has agreed to pay a hefty fine of $1.6 Million for failing to protect account information of 36 Million users, after a massive data breach last year.

Yes, the parent company of Ashley Madison, Ruby Corp. will pay $1.6 Million to settle charges from both Federal Trade

Ashley Madison hack – the importance of securing your personal data

I have just read the informative blog written by my colleague Michael McKinnon, detailing the extent of the data breach that AshleyMadison.com suffered earlier this month.

As with all data breaches, the first thing people ask themselves is, “does it affect me and what precautions can I take?”  When a large amount of data is stolen that includes personal details such as credit card numbers and date of birth, you can take measures now to minimize the risk of your data being misused in the future.

What can we do to protect ourselves after a data breach?

  • Ensure your online accounts are not using the email address and a password that could be guessed from personal information, if you are then change the password.
  • Keep a close watch on your credit reports. This will help you identify if someone is using your identity to take a line of credit in your name. Most credit scoring agencies allow you to run a report for free at least once.
  • Spammers may send emails that look like they are coming from valid sources. Make sure to carefully scrutinize these emails – don’t click on links that look suspicious – and if in doubt contact the sending organization directly to ensure it’s an official communication.
  • Avoid using the same email address or profile name across multiple online accounts. For example, have a primary email address used for recovery of forgotten passwords and account information. Have a secondary email address for offline and online retail transactions. Have a third for financial accounts and sensitive information.
  • Set privacy settings.  Lock down access to your personal data on social media sites, these are commonly used by cybercriminals to socially engineer passwords. Try AVG PrivacyFix, it’s a great tool that will assist you with this.
  • Check electronic statements and correspondence.  Receipts for transactions that you don’t recognize could show up in your mail.
  • Use strong passwords and two-factor authentication: See my previous blog post on how to create complex passwords that are easy to remember.
  • Have updated security software.  Updated antivirus software will block access to many phishing sites that ask for your personal data.

Lastly, you may want to consider enlisting an identity monitoring service.  Commercial companies that have been breached often offer this reactively to the victims but understanding where or if your identity is being abused in real-time will give you the ability to manage issues as they happen.

Follow me on Twitter @TonyatAVG

Ashley Madison Hack – what has been leaked?

As with all privacy breaches there are multiple victims here. The customers whose personal data has been leaked, as well as the company trusted to keep it secure; a trust that may never be regained.

However, what makes this case highly significant is the collateral damage that will likely spread beyond just the direct privacy breach.  Family ‘secrets’ are revealed and victims are ‘ousted’ – seemingly at the hands of anonymous hackers with a point to prove.

Another oddity in this case is that AshleyMadison.com charges only men for their subscriptions and message credits, while female users are able to use the site free of charge.  This has resulted in the victims consisting mostly of men, connected by way of their credit card transaction histories, causing an asymmetry rarely seen in data breaches made public.

While the hackers have released the data in what could best be described as a harsh and judgmental way, they do offer some clues about how trustworthy the data may or may not be, “Find someone you know in here? Keep in mind the site is a scam with thousands of fake female profiles.”

On that note, remember that the information obtained and released by hackers in data breaches by their very definition is never verified by the companies who are breached, and so this brings into question the integrity of all the data, regardless of how authentic it might seem.  For example, there may be deliberately false information inserted by the hackers designed to damage reputations or serve another agenda.

Accordingly, as already reported the hackers also provided this disclaimer of sorts, “Chances are your man signed up on the world’s biggest affair site, but never had one.”  In short, make sure you have all the facts before a potentially dangerous and damaging real-life Internet hoax unfolds in your own backyard.

Here’s a summary of the exact data that was breached:

  • Full names and addresses
  • Birthdates
  • Email addresses
  • Credit card transactions
  • GPS Coordinates
  • User Names & Passwords
  • Sexual Preference
  • Height, Weight, physical characteristics
  • Smoking and drinking habits

Lastly, while it may be easy to fall into the trap of victim-blaming and judging based on your own set of moral or ethical standards in this case – as social media opinions begin to rush forth in the coming days and beyond, it’s important to keep sight of the broader picture of what is transpiring.

Today’s breach may well affect nearly 30 million victims, and maybe you don’t know any of them… this time.  Next time, in another context, it could be you.

In the meantime, let’s hope that the active investigation into the perpetrators behind this hack are brought to justice, because as the statement from Avid Life Media rightly asserts, this is an act of criminality.

Until next time, stay safe out there.

Adulterers Beware: Ashley Madison Hacked

Ashley Madison is a social network for people in relationship (mostly married I’d guess) who want to have an affair. Now, according to Krebs on Security, the page has been hacked by “an individual or group that claims to have completely compromised the company’s user databases, financial records and other proprietary information”. Large parts of stolen data have been posted online by The Impact Team, the people responsible for said hack.

Apparently The Impact Team decided to post the stolen data because while Avid Life Media (ALM), the company that owns Ashley Madison, says that they will delete user profiles permanently for $19 that’s not happening, at least not completely. While there has been some controversy concerning this topic before the reaction of The Impact Team seems rather extreme.

“Full Delete netted ALM $1.7mm in revenue in 2014. It’s also a complete lie. Users almost always pay with credit card; their purchase details are not removed as promised, and include real name and address, which is of course the most important information the users want removed,” the hacking group wrote.

“Avid Life Media has been instructed to take Ashley Madison and Established Men offline permanently in all forms, or we will release all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails. The other websites may stay online.”

According to ALM CEO Noel Biderman the company’s investigation is ongoing. He also states that he believes that the breach was actually an inside job – perhaps by a former employee or contractor: “We’re on the doorstep of [confirming] who we believe is the culprit, and unfortunately that may have triggered this mass publication. I’ve got their profile right in front of me, all their work credentials. It was definitely a person here that was not an employee but certainly had touched our technical services.“

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