Airing Dirty Laundry: How the Ashley Madison Attack Ruined More than the Company

What is the first thing you think about when you hear the term "security breach?" As a small business owner, your first instinct is to probably call your cyber insurance agent and tell them your cyber security has been breached. If you don't have cyber insurance, then you have already realized (too late) that YOU are going to be the one paying for the damages.

But here's something new to think about: what will happen to your customers? Credit cards can be cancelled and their bank accounts reimbursed, but what if the information they shared on your site is more crucial than that? What happens then?

Privacy Made Public
In July 2015, the website Ashley Madison was hacked by a group called the Impact Team. Ashley Madison, a website designed with the purpose of connecting single, married and polyamorous users who wish to engage in flings, affairs and open relationships had promised its users anonymity and cybersecurity. Instead, users got blackmail, death threats and divorce papers.

After making a list of demands, the Impact Team shared a small amount of sensitive information about some of Ashley Madison's users. The Impact Team promised to stop releasing more incriminating data if Ashley Madison shut its site down, but the company did not comply. In August 2015, the Impact Team released the information of 32 million Ashley Madison users. Blackmailers took the information and began inundating the inboxes of the site's users, threatening to expose their infidelity to their spouses, children and employer if they did not pay a fee.

Some users have paid their blackmailers thousands of dollars to keep them quiet. Some users came out with their indiscretions to their spouses, seeking marriage counseling and hopes of reparation. Others lost their jobs and their families, with two people (that the public has been made aware of) committing suicide. As Ashley Madison was originally described as a website that provided a safe haven for people in search of engaging in extra marital affairs, the public was not altogether shaken by the data breach. If anything, the public thought Ashley Madison users were deserving of their plight. If they hadn't been looking to commit adultery, none of this would have happened to them.

The Impact Team made aired the private information of Ashley Madison's users on moral grounds. But here's something else to consider: what gives the Impact Team the right to be society's moral harbinger?

The Moral Police
While some people may agree with the Impact Team releasing sensitive Ashley Madison data, that agreement or apathy will only give other hackers more room to commit fraud on crime on "moral" grounds. This means that if someone disagrees with your business practices, they can gather a hacking coalition with one goal in mind: destroying your business. You may or may not support Ashley Madison's data breach, but one thing is certain: it will only lead to more.

With a good cyber security plan in place, you can keep your business and customers protected. Get a cybersecurity insurance quote with us today, and keep your business covered.

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