John McAfee is one of the most influential commentators on cybersecurity anywhere in the world. His new venture — Future Tense Central — focuses on security and personal privacy-related products. McAfee provides regular insight on global hacking scandals and internet surveillance, and has become a hugely controversial figure following his time in Belize, where he claims to have exposed corruption at the highest level before fleeing the country amid accusations of murder (the Belize government is currently not pursuing any accusations against him).
No one got laid on Ashley Madison — or nearly no one. Clearly, Noel Biderman, chairman of Avid Life Media, lucked out. As to the rest, even Josh Duggar appears to have hooked up outside of Ashley Madison — at a strip club to be precise. Tens of millions of men paid up to $1,000 or more to find a cheating housewife, and instead, found a clever bot with which to converse.
“I was a member but I didn’t score. Do I still get a prize?”
I am a firm believer in empirical research. Nothing works like the words from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. So I wrote an article for Silicon Angle giving the top ten alibis for why someone’s name would be on the Ashley Madison dump, and then included an email address where people could ask for advice if they had been a member and feared their data would imminently be released. I also included offers for advice and and email addresses in all my social media. I received 863 email requests for advice. All of them were male. None of them had hooked up with a woman. The typical request ran as follows:
I would sure appreciate some advice on the hack.
I did it. I had the account … came and went from it over various points in the last 6 years. Paid to be a member and my cc details are out … In total about $350-400 over 6 years. Emailed, chatted and certainly participated in some tawdry conversations … but didn’t physically follow through. While I imagine that distinction only matters to me … since it really identifies me as a failed cheater … but that is what I was looking for, the hunt, the thrill, and the “safe” experience of meeting someone online.
1. I do want to continue the relationship. I like being a husband to my wife, I like being a full-time father.
2. I am trying to answer this one honestly to myself and the answer is I do. I have just not been honest with myself, as is evident with 6 years of playing on AM.
3. I do believe I understand human kind. I do believe we are all capable of anything. I do hope for compassion from everyone.
The “three questions” referred to questions I asked advice-seekers to answer prior to contacting me:
You should ask yourself whether:
1. You feel certain that you want to continue in the relationship that you are trying to save.
2. That you understand your own needs, wants, and desires well enough to answer question One correctly.
3. That you understand the nature of human kind well enough to not expect your significant other to not display the same traits you have just displayed in your own behavior.
My response in this instance was as follows:
I advise that you be as open and honest with your spouse as you just were with me. The fact that you did not follow through will mean a great deal. Everyone indulges in fantasy. I believe that is all that you did, albeit an expensive fantasy.
Coming clean will relieve your burden and I do not believe it will damage your relationship. Give it a try.
Not all requests were as self-chiding. For example, one person was not even sure that he had become a member:
My email address from a previous employer shows up on the Trustify search tool. I do not recall creating an account on Ashley Madison. I do recall creating an account on Adult Friend Finder. I may have an account on Ashley Madison also, I do not know. I cannot utilize the password retrieval system to log in since I no longer work at the email address in the databases and have no access to that account. I have tried many times to log into the sites by entering my typical passwords with no success. Please help. I need to know what information is out there so I can begin to approach this this subject with the people I love.
My exposed email address is xxxxxxxxxxx@xxxxxxx
I advised him to say nothing yet, since he was using an ex-employer’s email address and it would be easy to deny any potential allegations. But this individual too, on further discussion, had hooked up with no one, ever, online.
31 million men, each of whom paid hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars and I am unable to find anyone who scored. At least through the “Ask me for help” technique.
I then went back to my social media (a few tens of thousands of followers — not huge, but enough to expect some kind of response considering the tens of millions of men who were on Ashley Madison) and prominently posted the following:
“If any of my followers had an account with Ashley Madison and actually scored, please contact me privately through the message system or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will ensure complete privacy and anonymity. This is an important request. Feel free to use burner emails if it makes you more comfortable.”
I received fewer than 100 responses — mostly from men, yet, again, none of them had actually hooked up with a woman. Typical of the types of responses: “I was a member but I didn’t score. Do I still get a prize?” A few women submitted equally facetious messages.
I anticipated the responses I obtained from my two limited tests, and would have been shocked had they been otherwise. But it’s still good to test any hypothesis.
Here’s why none of the men hooked up: There was no one there to hook up with. Or nearly no one.
Annalee Newitz, in a recent Gizmodo article, did an outstanding analysis of the Ashley Madison membership profiles and concluded that fewer than 12,000 women were actually using the site. My own analysis concluded that the number was fewer than 1,400 women. Even using Annalee’s more conservative estimate, that means that there was one femail member for each 3,000 male members — a 3,000:1 ratio. Using my numbers, the ratio of men to women would be 20,000:1. It would be nearly impossible for the average male member to hook up with a woman using either ratio.
How could these numbers be real considering that there were 5.5 million women members listed in the data dump?
From the dump it is clear that the overwhelming majority of female profiles were created by a bot or by humans acting in a bot capacity. This squares well with ex-Ashley Madison employee Doriana Silva’s lawsuit claiming repetitive movement injuries caused by the company’s demands that she create thousands of fake female employee profiles. Bots were clearly used later on as can be seen by the 10,000 fake female profiles who have an Ashley Madison email address: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, etc. The entire Ashley Madison company employs far fewer than 10,000 people, by the way.
The Ashley Madison numbers also square well with the Adult Friend Finder hack which disclosed an equivalent gender disparity, once professional sex workers were factored out of the equation, a few months back.
Why would this be important to me? From a social engineering standpoint it is critical. The “Handbook” of social engineering is in its infancy, and our understanding of gender anomalies is essential to the effectiveness of Social Engineering as a tool. The creators of Ashley Madison understood this well enough to structure their business around the principle that men would be charged for the service and women would be allowed to join for free. To be able to say that men are thousands of times more likely to join a purely sex oriented site than women is a huge gender indicator, and gender, more than any other single factor, is a necessary determinant of any successful social engineering project.
It is regrettable that we must resort to generalizations in order to help solve cybercrimes, but unfortunately, in realty they do exist. Fewer than one one man in four can correctly recall the date on which Valentines Day occurs — less than 25 percent. Yet more than 97.5 percent of women know the date. Over 80 percent of men would be happy if Valentines Day were dropped as a holiday and fewer than 3 percent of women feel the same. Men generally believe that infidelity is a necessary element of marriage (81 percent), and fewer than (0.4 percent) of women feel the same.
These are real statistics that I have gathered over the years to aid me in identifying gender. All of these numbers I have arrived at through empirical testing, just as I arrived at the numbers above for sex-site membership. It is regrettable that such diversity exists given the current “politically correct” society in which I am forced to live, yet they are real and can’t be avoided if we are ever to able to cach cybercriminals.
For, example it would seem foolish to offer a woman free membership in a sex site as a small bribe in return for information, but for a man, it might work. likewise, if we have a perpetrator who frequently accesses a sex-related site, we can almost certainly assume he is a male. It is generalizations like the above, taken together, that can give us a near certain guarantee of the gender of the perpetrator.