If there was ever anything funny about the Ashley Madison hack – people should stop laughing now.
As one of the largest data breaches in the social world, the hack that exposed the clients of the cheating website is a pretty huge deal – and one that’s been difficult for gossipers and comedians alike to ignore.
But it’s also become a big deal in an even more alarming way, as the repercussions of the leaked list is now leading to devastating consequences.
There have been reports of two suicides – both of which are in Canada – as a result of the breach, which stole the details of 36 million accounts. “As of this morning, we have two unconfirmed reports of suicides that are associated because of the leak of Ashley Madison customers’ profiles,” Toronto police service staff superintendent Bryce Evans said at a press conference earlier today.
And the sad reality is, there will probably be more.
Not to mention, there’s the threat of a ripple effect involving the growing number of scams and extortion attempts of clients, as the Toronto police warned in the press conference.
As expected, since news of the hack broke, some have revelled in the “outing” of the cheating participants, calling it an act of karma and claiming they deserve the ensuing humiliation and repercussions. But anyone with half a brain knows that it’s not just the cheater who suffers the consequences – it’s their spouse and family as well. If your significant other was having an affair, the pain of finding out would be a million times worse knowing that everyone else knows about it too.
But that’s the reality for many families.
If you’ve been watching the whole thing unfold, you’ll know that the data breach exposed members of parliament, UK civil servants, 19 Kids and Counting’s Josh Duggar (shocker), and even viral Christian vlogger Sam Rader, who just weeks ago posted an emotional video in the wake of their miscarriage. This, of course, is in addition to millions of “regular people.”
While the majority of Ashley Madison users were using the site to “discreetly” engage in extramarital affairs, others were using it for a different reason. To some people, the Ashley Madison-owned gay domains like ManCrunch and We Know Down Low offered an easy, supposedly secret way to engage in same-sex sexual experiences.
With the data breach, gay lives are now at risk.
That’s because, in some countries, the consequence for homosexuality is very real. Meaning, it’s illegal and punishable by death. Members of both gay-oriented clubs are among the account holders whose sexual preferences have now been exposed.
In July, one anonymous Saudi national posted on Reddit that he was sure he’d be stoned to death when the Ashley Madison data released. Now, apparently, he’s being flown to the US to work with a team of immigration lawyers who specialized in LGBT refugees seeking asylum.
As for the cheaters, we need to keep in mind that people stray from their unions for many reasons – some of which may even be borderline understandable given their situation. Though I am not condoning it in any way (and I am among the set familiar with the pain of cheating), going on Ashley Madison doesn’t automatically make you a terrible, monster of a person. Nor does it mean that the world needs to know about it.
And it certainly doesn’t make you deserving of death at your own hands or those of anyone else.
That’s why the investigation into the identity and prosecution of the hackers has become a massive undertaking. It’s broadened to include international law enforcement, with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security joining last week. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and Canadian federal and provincial police are also assisting.
Ashley Madison’s Canadian parent company Avid Life Media is offering a C$500,000 reward for information about the hackers.
At the end of the day, this whole mess is becoming a tragic situation that has no real winners. Perhaps the only positive aspect at all it that this serves as a wakeup call when it comes to modern technology and IT security. And yes, perhaps karma too.