Tuesday’s exposure by hackers of unfaithful partners across the world, with the posting of what they said were the personal details of millions of people registered with cheating website Ashley Madison, could impact some 170,000 Israeli users.
A message posted by the hackers alongside their massive trove accused Ashley Madison’s owners of deceit and incompetence and said the company had refused to bow to their demands to close the site.
“Now everyone gets to see their data,” the statement said.
Ashley Madison has long courted attention with its claim to be the Internet’s leading facilitator of extramarital liaisons, boasting of having nearly 39 million members and that “thousands of cheating wives and cheating husbands sign up every day looking for an affair.”
During a May 2015 visit to Israel, website chief executive Noel Biderman said 170,000 Israelis were signed up with the site.
“There is a very strong appetite for someone else’s wife in Israel,” Biderman said in an interview with the Hebrew-language Walla website at the time.
Figures showed that among men, 37% of Israeli users were in the 30-39 age range, 36% in the 40-49 range, 14% were 50-65, and the remaining users were either younger or older. Among women, 38% were in the 30-39 year range and 35% were 40-49, with the rest falling either above or below those ranges.
The website’s owner, Toronto-based Avid Life Media Inc., has previously acknowledged suffering an electronic break-in and said in a statement Tuesday it was investigating the hackers’ claim. US and Canadian law enforcement are involved in the probe, the company said.
Many analysts who have scanned the data believe it is genuine.
A list of millions of email addresses showed some 16,000 with a “.co.il” suffix indicating an email address from Israel, Haaretz reported. However, many of the addresses were never verified by a user account on the website, suggesting they may have been collected by the site without being part of an authentic sign-up process.
Arab Joint List MK Taleb Abu Arar’s Knesset email, firstname.lastname@example.org, was confirmed as a user on the Ashley Madison website, and according to the leaked database, “the email address was confirmed by the account owner.”
Abu Arar, a conservative Muslim Bedouin politician known for his support for polygamy, denied any connection to the website, telling Channel 2 that he had filed a complaint with police because someone hacked his email address.
Although many may have signed up out of curiosity and some have little more to fear than embarrassment, the consequences for others could reverberate beyond their marriages. The French leak monitoring firm CybelAngel said it counted 1,200 email addresses in the data dump with the .sa suffix, suggesting users were connected to Saudi Arabia, where adultery is punishable by death.
CybelAngel also said it counted some 15,000 .gov or .mil addresses in the dump, suggesting that American soldiers, sailors and government employees had opened themselves up to possible blackmail. Using a government email to register for an adultery website may seem foolish, but CybelAngel Vice President of Operations Damien Damuseau said there was a certain logic to it. Using a professional address, he said, keeps the messages out of personal accounts “where their partner might see them.”
“It’s not that dumb,” Damuseau said.
How many of the people registered with Ashley Madison actually used the site to seek sex outside their marriage is an unresolved question. But whatever the final number, the breach is still a humbling moment for Ashley Madison, which had made discretion a key selling point. In a television interview last year, Biderman described the company’s servers as “kind of untouchable.”