So much for your super-secret affair: Ashley Madison has been hacked, putting the private info of 37 million would-be cheaters in the hands of hackers. (© Richard Levine/Demotix/Corbis photo)
Personally, I think the search for alien intelligence in outer space is vital because, in the immortal words of Monty Python, “there’s bugger all down here on Earth.” The latest evidence than humans are little more than nasty chimps with nuclear weapons comes from the world of the Internet.
Ashley Madison is a website that allows married people who want to cheat on their spouse to meet and do whatever it is they do. The site has been hacked, and the private information of 37 million would-be adulterers is now in the hands of people who can use it for blackmail or other nefarious purposes. This raises the question:
Just how fucking dumb are members of the site?
I am not a trained psychologist. I am a political-economist and historian. There may well be some people in the world who do bad things in the hope of getting caught. I defer to the experts in abnormal psychology on that matter. But for a huge majority of human beings, getting caught is not a desired outcome when cheating, be it cheating in a relationship or a card game. In my world, cheaters only prosper if they go undetected.
If you have ever watched any cop show, read an Agatha Christie novel or even an “Encyclopedia Brown” kids’ story, you know that one of the key elements to getting away with breaking the rules is to leave no evidence. If there’s no proof, you aren’t as likely to be caught. People may have their suspicions, but that’s different than having proof. Losing a pile of money at poker might make you suspect one of the other players, but when you find a couple cards up his sleeve, well, that’s different, isn’t it?
The people at Ashley Madison, which is owned by a company called Avid Life Media, don’t help people hook up just out of the goodness of their hearts. Like pimps and madams everywhere, they do it for a buck. However, cash doesn’t work on the Internet. So you need to pay them using a credit or debit card, PayPal or some other means of electronic payment. And thanks to the National Surveillance State in which we live regardless of country of residence, that means the money has to be traceable.
Your name, your billing address and your account numbers are the usual bits of information you have to part with in order for Internet commerce to happen. By signing up for Ashley Madison, you are putting your name, your address and your banking information onto a list called “People Who Want to Cheat on Their Spouse/Significant Other.” That’s the exact opposite of not leaving a trace.
Oh, sure, your details are encrypted. Access to your information is restricted to a handful of people, etc., etc., etc. ad infinitum. Here’s the ugly truth: If your information isn’t physically restricted to your own devices, you can lose control of it.
Wired magazine’s Andy Greenberg nailed it in his report on this hack when he concluded, “With that lack of online dating security now coming to light, users should take note: Maybe the Internet isn’t the perfect place to pursue your super secret love affair after all.”
Jeff Myhre is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.