Discuss about the Cyber Crime for Ashley Madison.
A crime which is conducted with the help of a computer and a network is defined as a cyber crime. It is basically damage of any kind done to an individual or an organization purposely with a sole motive of causing harm both financially as well as mentally to the victims. As per a report sponsored by McAfee, the damage caused globally due to these cyber attacks are as much as $445 Billion whereas Microsoft claims that the damage is much more than the quoted figures. As per a recent research conducted by Juniper it is expected that the said loss may aggravate to 2.1 Trillion in three years time.
The said report talks about the cyber crime that took place at Ashley Madison in the year 2015. The said company provides online dating service and social networking service for those in the crowd who are married or engaged or committed into a relationship. The said company’s motto is simple ‘Life is short, Have an affair’. It was founded in the year 2002 but came to limelight a year ago when the said company’s data got hacked and all the vital information with regards its customers got stolen such as their name, address, sexual fantasies and credit card details. The hackers were known as ‘The Impact Team’ who circulated 40MB of confidential data that was stolen from Avid Life Media (ALM) a company that owns this website and other such services. They threatened the company’s CEO to shut down the said website else they would leak al the confidential data. The report also discusses about how the said crime was dealt with by the company and what steps it took to safeguard its position in public. Further to this it also mentions the loss the company had to face, financially, mentally as well as reputational.
Argument and Analysis
The Impact Team, as is called by the hackers to themselves were the ones who hacked the entire data base of Ashley Madison The leakage of the sensitive information in public had a great and irreversible impact on not only the company but also those whose data were released. As the name suggests, the attackers had a great impact on the personal lives of millions of people associated with the said website. The team had a dual motive to satisfy. Firstly the team had been condemning the very operation of the site to help fix up an extramarital affair between committed and married people. Secondly, is the business practice of Ashley Madison wherein it asks its customers to pay $19 if they want all the sensitive data to be erased from their data bank but as was revealed later all the information was not erased.
On July 15, 2015, the team made the attack official and threatened the company that if it did not close down Ashley Madison and Established Men, then it would publicise the data. The website has never verified the emails of those who created their profile and generally the users created fake mail ids Annalee Newitz found that only 12000 of the women accounts out of the 5.5 million registered with AM were used often. Further to this it was also discovered that most of the accounts of women were fake since they were created from the same IP address thus this shows that the company’s security system was never too strong.
Further to this the hack proved that the company was cheating upon its members. Avid Life Media received $1.7 million every year from its members for deleting their accounts but the said hack revealed that the said was a fake as it ended up leaking data of those also who had paid money for deletion of their accounts. The said hack led to targeting members who were celebrities in various fields by planning to leak their data publicly and embarrass them .
The biggest loophole from the company’s point of view was the fact that it had extorted huge amounts from its members but did not deliver what it promised. This led to a reputational loss of the company but at the same time had impacted the personal lives of those who had paid to delete their data to the company as well. I feel it a matter of ethics here wherein the company has been performing unethically to rake in money wherein the member has not been granted the right to delete the account. Further to this such sites have led to breakage of trust on the networking business and hence many other company’s who are genuine had to face the brunt as well.
Impact of The Cyber Crime
The said crime had financial as well as psychological implications. Although the attackers had no financial gain intention behind such a big scandal. Ashley Madison’s holding company, Avid Life Media ended up losing over a quarter of revenue as customers stopped registering themselves. The actual loss in value terms is yet to be revealed but the same would have been huge since the company has offered a prize money of $500000 (Canadian) to the person who would provide information with regards the hackers and help in their arrest. Apart from that the business firm is strangled into law suits worth $576 million by the users who had suffered due to the said hack.
Apart from the above mentioned financial losses, the attackers ruined the lives of many individuals. Trust was broken, relationships were smashed, reputational loss as well as some even lost their jobs due to the same. People who were exposed had to suffer extortion and blackmailing. The worst impact was suicides committed due to the said hack. It was always understood that cyber crimes which led to leakage of information would result in shutting down of the business, remediation as well as restitution but the outcomes of this case was even more devastating. This crime basically was an eye opener for those who had spent their hard earned money in such sites and also for those who would have probably thought of registering oneself in the near future. The Impact Team in a way made the public realise that these sites should not be trusted in totality even if they are being paid a premium for deletion of sensitive information.
Red Flags of the Ashley Madison Cyber Crime
The said crime has widened the gap between an idealistic society and the reality. The capitalist ideology is all about meeting a person, trusting and falling in love with the person, getting married and planning a family and further nurturing them into a family. However it is all a myth rightly proven by the ‘Impact Team’. Secondly the concept of such a business idea and its success is all due to its popularity ad acceptability by the society as a whole, thus the company is alone not to be blamed for the same. Thirdly, this cyber crime has made people aware that their sensitive data should never be shared on trust as the company although had taken money for deletion of the account yet the same got hacked and caused devastating effects, some of which are irreplaceable such as a loss of life.
Action Taken By Avid Life Media (Alm)
Five days after the first outburst of the crime, ALM had made an official announcement that it was an attempt made by an unauthorised individual who crept into their system illegally. The company is working upon the same with the law enforcement agencies so as to catch the criminals of the said attack. It also has said that the members can now delete their personal data on their own without any charge.
But unfortunately when after a month’s notice from the attackers the company did not shut down the two stated websites, the attackers released the information on the dark web. However ALM immediately gave an official statement that it working upon the said attack so as to counter attack the hackers. Further since there were loads of law suits filed but with hidden names, ALM requested the court to dismiss cases where the actual identity of the plaintiffs was hidden.
On analysing the details of the entire case it is understood that one should be very careful before being lured towards such websites as the business firms are encouraged to launch such business ideas due to the demand of the society. The company is alone not to be blamed and this case is a sheer case of mistrust and unethical move both by the company as well as the members. Respect and trust is what is most desirable in a society so as to nurture in a healthy manner. My recommendations are for both the members as well as such companies both. For the former my suggestion would be that cheating onto a relationship and then loosing on life is no fun and that life is precious and should be led with respect. Even if the same would not have been hacked but leaked through some other source even then the consequences would have to be faced by not only the victim but also the people related to that victim. From the company’s point of view, my suggestion would be that launching such dating sites is not illegal even though unethical but at the same time promising something false to the members is unethical. Further such companies should tighten their computer security and review the same frequently so as to be able to safeguard the members’ sensitive data. The hackers have not done it for financial gain but they have done it to teach a lesson not only to the company but also the members who have posted a very clean image of the self to the world at large.
The said cyber attack though seems to be a criminal offence from the view point of Ashley Madison yet the same has ensured revelation of the fact that the company’s policies and business practices are unethical in nature and needs a revisit. The Impact Team’s leakage of data as affected the married or relationship status of its members so much that it even took many lives and resulted in many divorces as well. The said scandal impacted the lives of millions across the globe and not just a small group of individuals. The said crime is defined as the most expensive one of the decade since it lead to not only monetary losses but also losses of lives, relations and most importantly trust. The company even though proclaim of the fact that the said crime is still a criminal offence conducted by the hackers yet the same cannot be denied that the said attack has disclosed many unethical secrets of the business firm as well. It has made people understand no website is fully secured. The same came as a big shock to the society as well as many could see the gap between a capitalist society and the reality of the situation widen. People whose data or name was not leaked were also under the purview of questions since the world is seen loosing on the trust. Because of the same the innocent also got wrapped up in the arena of doubts by their spouses or better halves.
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