Business and Personal EthicsCyber AttackEthical Behavior

Ashley Madison and the Ethics of Disclosure!

By August 21, 2015 No Comments

Want to cheat on your spouse?  According to Ashley Madison, a matchmaking website for cheating on spouses, your indiscretion would not be discovered.  In other words, what they don’t know won’t hurt you (or them).

Ashley MadisonThat concept was true until…as reported in the daily news:

Adultery website Ashley Madison was hacked on Tuesday by a group called “The Impact Team,” who then exposed users of the site by leaking their emails on the Dark Web-which can be accessed via Tor browsers.

Several websites took the leaked information and began creating searchable databases that let anyone type in an email to see if it’s part of the Ashley Madison dump. Some of those websites include Trustify and

Every Choice has a Consequence!

Today is not such a good day for people who bought into the concept that indiscretion is private.  Choices have consequences and the websites have been hot with people checking email addresses to see if their spouse/significant other has had cheating on their mind.

By clicking on the websites that has created a way to check email addresses against the Ashley Madison stolen data, people and companies are finding hoards of addresses that raise questions – so questions that are hard to answer.

In an article published by ARS Technica the following appears:

Hackers behind the breach of the Ashley Madison cheater’s dating service have released a second, much bigger dump of sensitive materials that includes a massive amount of e-mail from its parent company’s CEO Noel Biderman.

The Ashley Madison hack is not only real, it’s worth than we thought. Intimate data for more than 30 million accounts, keys to Windows domain published.

The BitTorrent download totals 19GB, including 13GB worth of e-mail from Biderman, who is CEO of Avid Life Media, which owns Ashley Madison. The rest is made up of source code for the website and its various smartphone apps as well as proprietary corporate data. The new leak comes two days after Avid Life Media officials left open the possibility a previous 10GB download may not have been genuine. As it turned out, the leaked materials were real and showed the hackers had burrowed further into Ashley Madison than almost anyone had imagined.

“Hey Noel, you can admit it’s real now,” the hackers wrote in a message included in the download. It will take time for the Internet to digest the contents. Still, a preliminary analysis doesn’t look good.

“The dump appears to contain all of the [CEO’s] business/corporate e-mails, source code for all of their websites, mobile applications, and more,” researchers from TrustedSec wrote in a blog post published Thursday. “Note that we do not plan on performing analysis on the actual files due to the sensitivity of the dump however, it does appear to be legitimate like the other dump.”

An Ethics Conundrum

Some are quick to argue that what goes around comes around.  If you sneak around then it’s quite karmic and ethical that a sneaky hacker would make hidden sensitive material public.  Others say that it is quite unethical to take was does not belong to you and expose it in a way that is intended to do others harm.

Here’s a post from the parent company of Ashley Madison:

Toronto, ON August 18, 2015 – 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, 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

It’s a Sad Day all around…

I don’t feel that hacking is ethical.  Likewise, I don’t feel that cheating is either.  Most importantly it is a sad day because today and tonight marriages will be lost and children hurt by the hidden actions of their parents – all in the spirit of the simple idea that “What happens in the dark, stays in the dark.”

That’s not true!



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