Debate Forum: 09/08

Go online. Get screwed.

Hacking Ashley Madison

By Tim Walker


fi-del-i-ty (n) – faithfulness to a person, cause, or belief, demonstrated by continuing loyalty and support.

It goes without saying; there was a shocking lack of fidelity at

Since its launch in 2001, Ashley Madison, a popular online dating website based in Canada and owned by Avid Life Media, has been encouraging people to cheat on their partners, going so far as to use the trademarked phrase, “Life is Short. Have an Affair.” in all their advertising. With 39 million subscribers, the strategy was working—that is until the world ended, when the website’s membership database was hacked into in July by a group identifying itself as Impact Team.

The Impact Team hackers demanded that Avid Life Media shut down both and sister site They threatened that if these demands weren’t met, they would go public with the subscribers’ personal and financial information.

On August 18, with both sites still open, the hackers followed through on their threats and released the data with this accompanying message: “Time’s up! Avid Life Media have failed to take down Ashley Madison and Established Men. We have explained the fraud, deceit and stupidity of ALM and their members. Now everyone gets to see their data. Find yourself in here? It was ALM that failed you and lied to you. Prosecute them and claim damages. Then move on with your life. Learn your lesson and make your amends. Embarrassing now but you’ll get over it.”

The names of millions people who had signed up to a website devoted to cheating on their partners, along with their financial data, were suddenly all available online through a simple Google search. These people—men and women—had been promised complete discretion by the “dating” service. The ones who had left the site, who had paid Ashley Madison an additional $19 each to have all of their data deleted, found themselves still on the lists, outed just like everyone else.

And that wasn’t all. A recently-released analysis of the date by technology blog reveals another truth—a VERY disproportionate and (probably) disappointing gender disparity not disclosed to the site’s subscribers. Apparently, routinely used computer-generated female “profiles” to make it seem that more women participated than really did.

CEO Noel Biderman, who resigned from his position on August 28, has even been accused of authorizing his tech people to hack into another company’s dating site, in order to raid their subscriber list.

As the accusations proliferate, the questions remain: did Ashley Madison deserve what happened to them? Is the website just another shameless money grab, preying on the fantasies of lonely men trapped in loveless relationships, and milking them for that monthly subscriber fee, all the while keeping them on the hook with fake female profiles? Do their arguments that they are the victims in this whole debacle simply not hold water?

Or is Ashley Madison innocent after all? Are they just a company that was providing a simple and completely legal service, a wildly popular service that millions of men patronized, which was then viciously broken into and robbed of their confidential client files? Are they, to put it simply, blameless victims of a shocking extortion attempt?

Tim Walker is 50 and a writer, DJ, and local musician. He lives with his wife and their 2 children in Dayton, where he enjoys pizza, jazz and black t-shirts. Reach him

Legal victim? Absolutely. Moral perpetrator? You decide.

By Brad Sarchet

It seems that Ashley Madison (AM) may be both a victim and a perpetrator…but of what, exactly? There are so many issues in this debate it is difficult to keep them straight and separate, but doing so is imperative if we wish to assess those issues fairly and consistently.

Before approaching the issues directly, however, the distinction between morality and the law must be clarified because some issues here are legal, some moral, while others may be both.

Morality and the law are not necessarily connected. Actions can be considered illegal but not immoral, such as rolling your car through a stop sign or, perhaps, hacking a business website. Behavior can also be considered immoral but not illegal. Several examples of such behavior may relate directly to the AM case, specifically adultery and deceit. Most people (perhaps not the 39 million AM users) probably believe adultery is immoral, but it is not, in fact, illegal.

So, just what is the connection between the law and morality, or what should that connection be? Arguments have been made that the law should not be used to enforce morality, and it has become clear that moral judgments have no place in legal decision-making.

John Stuart Mill (born in 1806) was a strong proponent of this position. In “On Liberty,” Mill argues that the state should not use criminal law to prevent immoral conduct that does not cause harm to others. Mill put forth the principle that individuals must remain free of “compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number is self-protection.” Being immoral, in and of itself, does not justify legal action.

The argument that morality has no place in legal sanctions or proceedings is also made in recent articles and legal cases. In her 2011 article, “Morality Has No Place in the Law,” Sarah Braasch cites two recent legal cases that deny moral beliefs as justifiable reasons to limit an individual’s rights: Lawrence v. Texas and Perry v. Schwarzenegger. She quotes the District Court in Perry: “A private moral view… is not a proper basis for legislation” and “moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights.” In Lawrence, the Supreme Court decided that the moral majority may not “use the power of the State to enforce these views on the whole society through operation of the criminal law.” Braasch also adds that “Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s concurrence in Lawrence was particularly scathing in its denunciation of the suggestion that moral disapproval, in and of itself, was a legitimate government interest.”

Now, let’s refocus on issues related specifically to the AM debacle, beginning with what seem to be some relevant facts of the case:

1. AM was operating a legal business.

2. AM’s website was hacked by Impact Team. Hacking a website is illegal.

3. AM’s clientele had their personal and financial information stolen from the website by Impact Team.

4. After attempted extortion, Impact Team made AM’s user data public.

5. AM deceived its clientele by using computer-generated female profiles, among other possible deceptions.

Regarding No. 1, if AM was operating a legitimately legal business, then the moral judgment assigned to the nature of its business and its clientele does not change this fact. And if we add No. 2, then we have the case in which a legally operating business was illegally assaulted. Whether or not AM “deserved” this assault is a moral judgment and is, therefore, irrelevant in the legal arena.

Based on No. 3, the question arises: Did AM’s clientele have reasonable assurance that AM’s website would remain secure and their data would remain private? AM’s clientele “had been promised complete discretion” regarding the security of their data. I would argue that NO website is absolutely safe from having its information hacked and the private data of its users stolen. We may like to believe that’s the case, but just ask Anthem or the U.S. Military how that works out. AM should not be singled out and criticized merely because its users’ data were stolen—this is simply too common of an occurrence to admonish one particular website.

Based on No.4, Impact Team is, again, guilty of a criminal act, and it’s absurd that Impact Team urges AM users to “prosecute them and claim damages.”

Based on No. 5, it is apparent that AM deceived its clientele, but such deception is not illegal. AM may be guilty of a breech of ethics, but this alone does not constitute illegal behavior.

Thus, in legal terms, AM and its clientele are, indeed, victims and Impact Team is the perpetrator—of both an illegal cyber attack and extortion. AM may well be “just another shameless money grab, preying on the fantasies of lonely men trapped in loveless relationships,” but that does not change their status as legal victims. Nor does the morality of AM’s business make Impact Team’s actions legally justifiable.

Reach DCP freelance writer Brad Sarchet at

Real victims are Ashley Madison users

By Rob Scott

Many may have never heard of or what the website offered for services before the computer hack of the site made them famous. However, the website is not much different than, or any other business providing a service.

There is an exception though; does encourage a spouse to commit adultery. The site’s motto is “Life is Short. Have an Affair.” and more than 40 million people use the site.

This is no different from other websites that provide services which may be somewhat denounced in society—like alcohol stores, smoke shops, gambling establishments and even all those unhealthily fast food joints.

Committing adultery is not a crime. However, it is morally frowned upon. There are businesses that cater to illegalities of the sex business, like or

As someone who practices domestic relations law, I see a lot of folks who utilize the swinger lifestyle and businesses associated with it, like Before practicing domestic relations, I knew nothing about this alternative world and lifestyle, but came to find that it is truly ingrained in any community.

Yes—it is in your community as well.

The folks involved in this lifestyle who I have represented are both male and female, and in normal careers like anyone else.

One may ask—why does this have anything to do with a divorce, since under the law in most states cheating truly does not make a difference? I completely agree. However, when children are involved, you never know what kind of curve ball can be thrown at the case from the other side, especially if one party has been partaking in the lifestyle and other has not.

In the practice of law, clients truly do need to be honest with their attorney and provide them a full spectrum of what is going on. Our role most of the time is to be the problem solver. As a divorce attorney—and when I tell people what I do for a living I get “the look”—my job is to assist individuals in probably the most emotional part of their lives. I provide them with a way to move on.

In most instances, how they got to where they are is immaterial. I never pass judgment on their decisions. But I will tell you in my experience, the most common reason for divorce is adultery.

This discussion has been brought to the forefront since the hack occurred. The account information, names, addresses, emails and credit card numbers of 40 million users was posted online to be viewed and searched by the masses. Ironically, I have had one phone call from a perspective client who found their spouse on this list. I’d imagine most users of the site have cancelled their membership and moved on, despite the site saying thousands have recently signed up for their services.

In response to the invasion of privacy, is claiming to be a victim of a huge computer hack, which is destroying their business model. As a business that is likely on life support now, can you blame them?

Because of the nature of their business, discretion is the priority and now that has been compromised. The blame is on They should have had more than Central Intelligence Agency-level computer security features to prevent the hack. had to know that their users required discretion, advertising towards spouses who wanted to commit adultery. Their site shows a woman with a finger across her lips in a “hush” pose, a clear marketing sign that the business knew the value of secrecy.

My argument is that the true victims are the users of, not the business. If was hacked and customers’ information was posted online, people would see it as a severe identity theft case. This is very similar to the recent hacks of Home Depot and Wal-Mart.

The same is true for users. These customers of provided their information and financial information for their services, and the information was not properly secured.

The users could very possibly have civil claims against the business, and there could likely be lawsuits filed. Damages to reputation and ruined marriages are two examples of what could be on the table against the website.

I’m not saying what the users of the site did is right by any means. However, the website does have an obligation to their consumer to keep the information secure—and that’s even more important for

My motto here: Hate the sin, not
the sinners. 

Rob Scott is a general practice attorney at Oldham & Deitering, LLC. Scott is a Kettering City Councilman, founder of the Dayton Tea Party, member of the Dayton Masonic Lodge and Kettering Rotary. He can be contacted at or


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Tim Walker
Tim Walker is 51 and a writer, DJ, and local musician. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dayton, where he enjoys pizza, jazz, and black T-shirts. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at

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