The day will come when we look back at the major cyber security incidents of 2015. There is little doubt that the Ashley Madison incident will be the most fascinating in many minds for some time to come. At every level, the matter exposed breaks in trust, lies, deceit, and most impressively, very little actual sex.
Call this all an amazing trick, a hoax, a scandal, or whatever; the bottom line is that many people were coaxed into freely trading data in exchange for the perception that they would have sex, no-strings attached. In its wake, lives were completely destroyed, as well as the company that built it all.
Married and committed men and their profiles were exposed for the world to see.
The level of trust that was broken in the Ashley Madison hack was obvious, and for many, the most hurtful. Married and committed men and their profiles, which were designed to lure strange women into sexual escapades, were exposed for the world to see. The ramifications of this exposure tells of irreparably broken marriages (which were arguably already in some kind of peril); it tells stories of people that committed suicide; and somewhere, I’m sure divorce lawyers are reaping the benefits of it all.
Ashley Madison’s parent company, Avid Life Media, weaved the next web of lies in this tragedy. It offered services predicated on the imagery of sex and trust at the same time. The company encouraged men to sign up, ensuring that everything would be a secret. How wrong many were to assume that was the case. Ashley Madison even capitalized on this Potemkin secrecy by selling a more secured service at a premium, so that info would be permanently removed. Of course, it wasn’t removed at all.
The women, they just plain didn’t exist. Brilliant programming and outsourced tasks made sure that the perception of active female profiles kept men coming in the door.
When the hack emerged, it was obvious that, regardless of the demands, the data would eventually be released, somehow. The motivation behind the hack, a thinly veiled disdain for particular people within the organization and the business itself, showed the telltale footprint of a disgruntled insider.
Dating, alternative lifestyles, and philandering have been on the Web since it started. Dating scams go back even farther than that. What made Ashley Madison so significant was the loss of innocence and potential future awareness that it caused. Perhaps it takes a very personal breach like this for many people to become aware of their information online, what they are sharing, and who they are sharing it with.
It is true that there were other major incidents that emerged this year, such as the Office of Personnel Management hack that exposed details of many prospective, current, and former government employees. The specter of that incident is a true horror. The significance of Ashley Madison, however, is that it has reached the public consciousness. With a little luck, some good may come from it.
The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.