In today’s world, websites and modern technology, such as email, instant messaging, and texting, provide a means for cheaters to establish and maintain extramarital relationships with a greater degree of secrecy from unsuspecting spouses. Thus, it is not surprising that there are websites, such as AshleyMadison.com, that are designed to connect married people who want to have an affair. AshleyMadison.com promotes infidelity through its website and blog posts and uses the tagline: “Life is short. Have an affair.” If you find it shocking that a website would devote itself to providing a forum for extramarital affairs, consider the number of married people who register and post profiles on Match.com, eHarmony.com, and other popular websites where they falsely represent their marital status as single, divorced, or separated.
Numerous media sources, including the Wall Street Journal and CNN, reported in July 2015 that AshleyMadison.com revealed that its security had been breached by hackers, and the names, addresses and other personal information of its estimated thirty-seven million members had been compromised. The hackers, who called themselves The Impact Team, threatened to release information about the website’s members unless the website was taken down. Despite the hackers’ warning, the AshleyMadison.com website remained online, and the hackers followed through with their threat. According to Trustify, as of late August 2015, the hackers have twice released data from two of Ashley Madison’s databases – the first which contained the members’ email addresses, and the second which contained the members’ credit card transaction information.
Ashley Madison’s members have reason to be concerned about the impact the release of this data might have on their spouses, children, employment, and other aspects of their lives. As of August 24, 2015, at least two people were reported to have committed suicide after details of their Ashley Madison membership became public. Jeff Ashton, State Attorney for Osceola and Orange counties in Florida, has said he will resign from his position after being identified as an Ashley Madison member. At least one analyst who has reviewed the data has identified approximately 15,000 email addresses used by Ashley Madison members as those belonging to United States government or military email accounts ending in .gov or .mil.
Representatives of the Ashley Madison website previously boasted that the majority of their members were female; however, analysts who have reviewed the data released by the hackers have determined that an estimated thirty-one million members of the company’s website were men.
The parent company of the Ashley Madison website, Toronto-based Avid Life Media Inc., is offering a $500,000 reward for information leading to the identification and arrest of the hackers.
Many cheaters conduct their extramarital affairs with confidence in their ability to keep the affair secret. However, the Ashley Madison fiasco highlights the potentially devastating consequences that cheaters face by engaging in such deceptive behavior, including possibility of divorce, public embarrassment, and loss of employment.