Sunday, August 23, 2015

Names and Places

The last few days have been interesting in an instant karma kind of way. A group of hackers released around thirty gigabytes of names and profiles from the online company Ashley Madison, a company that promotes cheating and infidelity. Unlike most people I wondered who claimed responsibility for the hack. The go-to group was the hacktivist group Anonymous, but it wasn't them. A little Google-fu revealed the name. A group calling themselves Impact Team attacked two sites, Ashley Madison and Exceptional men, both owned by Avid Life Media. In reading the Wired article it states Impact Team was morally outraged at the websites and the practices they condoned.
The first big data dump was last Tuesday. Journalists and social media bloggers have been poring over that data and came up with not only government employees using their work e-mails but the current king of hypocrites, Josh Duggar. There's that karma thing. People thought he was a douchebag before, but it was so much bigger.
But Thursday and Friday there were two more data dumps of far more importance. The proprietary source code and seventy three gigs of repositories. Now any hacker worthy of the name can look for exploits. From my perspective, Impact Team just drove a stake through the heart of ALM.
The first word about a data security breach at Ashley Madison was on July 19. The hackers had already gotten what they wanted. Impact Team contacted ALM and demanded they shut down the sites in question or else. Ashley Madison reportedly made 115 million last year so ALM wasn't about to cave in to what amounted to what they saw as a terrorist threat. Thirty days later, August 19th, the hackers made good on their threat.
In reading the article, the hackers may get away with it. If they covered their tracks and took precautions, and it appears they did, authorities won't find so much as a foot print. Here is the full article from Wired. 
Part of me is cheering for Impact Team and their smack down on a company that promotes infidelity and was poised to become an IPO. (What does that say about society?)
Another part of me worries about these cyber bullies and what they represent. Some people might call them vigilantes, and they'd be right. My concern stems from the old trope: 'Who watches the watchers?'
Many years ago, a few well meaning computer literate beings wrote a virus-like program that was designed to seek out child pornography and report the IP addresses, names and numbers of people who downloaded it. The intention was to take out child molesters. Unfortunately that's not how it works. The police couldn't use that information because it violates a number of constitutional rights. Not only that, but the manner in which the information was obtained opens a whole can of Orwellian worms. Sorry, the law doesn't work that way.
It's a slippery slope where people can expose the private information of people who pissed them off. It is another matter entirely to bring down and destroy a multi-million dollar company.
So Impact Team has stepped on a cockroach that angered them. The only thing you've taught these lowlifes is to burrow into the shadows a bit deeper. Despite our public disdain, ALM, or a similar company will crop up to take Ashley Madison's place. When they do, you can bet your ass the security will be beefed up.
If I can use an analogy. Let's say I get a speeding ticket going down a certain road on my way to work. I pay the fine and knowing the police officers are fond of catching motorists on this certain stretch of highway, I take an alternate route to my job. Ask yourself, 'What has this accomplished?'
The scum at ALM will still be bottom feeders. Lying cheating bastards like Josh Duggar will go on living. These two types of dirt bags will always find a way. Impact Team may have felt morally outraged and they have the skill sets to bring the assholes down, but have they really brought them to justice? Hardly.


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