81° Good Afternoon
81° Good Afternoon
OpinionColumnistsLane Filler

Sometimes the Web is a cesspool

Ashley Madison, an online cheating website, was recently

Ashley Madison, an online cheating website, was recently hit by a hack that may have compromised the company's information and that of more than 37 million users. This was the Ashley Madison website in Korean on June 10, 2015. Credit: AP

It feels like my family's information has been snagged in every computer snafu since I spilled Strawberry Quik on the Pong controller and blew out my parents' cable service. My household got caught up in the Target stores hack. We got caught up in the JPMorgan Chase hack. Most memorably, we got snared in the attack in which every South Carolinian who paid state income taxes between 1998 and 2012 had his or her information and Social Security numbers stolen, potentially sapping the motivation of that part of the South to rise again.

So when I read that Ashley Madison, the dating website for cheaters, suffered a hack that could put the info of its more than 30 million members at risk, I got that joyous feeling I experience only when I'm driving on a fast-flowing highway and traffic coming the other way is stopped for miles.

A hack group calling itself "Impact Team" claims a feature Ashley Madison offers called "full delete" doesn't live up to its name. The intruders threatened to release member records if the site were not taken down.

To clarify: Ashley Madison is free to join. You can create a profile gratis. But if you want to quit, the company says you can only do so, and be guaranteed all your information is permanently scrubbed, if you pony up $19. So the business plan is, "Oh, you might want to join, but not as much as you're gonna want to quit!"

Impact Team says full delete isn't real, and the company has records of the quitters. The hackers say they're angry that full-delete clients could still have their info exposed -- so Impact Team has threatened to expose every Ashley Madison user's information. That'll show 'em. Whoever 'em is.

I'd heard of Ashley Madison but couldn't make sense of it. I get that some married men, unlike me, do not have relationships that are uninterrupted 15-year rushes of excitement, attentiveness and joyful conversations about something called a dust ruffle. Such sad sacks might want a space where they can seek cheating partners. But why would women join when, in my experience, any female seeking a sexual partner need only exist in three-dimensional space to attract applicants?

So I got a membership using my wife's sexy pet name for me, rolypolybaldingfoureyes9, and I poked around.

It's kinda weird and icky. It's a dating site where everyone has dropped the hackneyed "I like walks on the beach, travel and curling up with a poetry chapbook" in favor of "I like to rub and insert stuff and have stuff rubbed and inserted."

It was depressing enough to make you miss the lies on normal dating websites: the women who claim to love all sports, the men who claim to enjoy conversation. It was clear many of the female posters were, if not dating for a living, at least semiprofessional. It was unclear how many of the female posters were female. The men were the kind of married men you'd expect to find seeking women on websites.

Hacking Ashley Madison and threatening to out its members is gratuitously nasty. But unless you're in one of those open marriages that is as rarely seen and often discussed as the Sasquatch, being a member of Ashley Madison is gratuitously nasty, too. If your spouse doesn't mind you belonging to Ashley Madison, you can't really be outed. If your spouse does mind and you do belong, it's kind of hard to claim the moral high ground.

It's another lesson in Modern Times 101: Nobody gets away with it, cameras are everywhere, computers see all.

But this once my wife and I didn't have to learn the hack lesson the hard way. I called her and told her, "Honey, this big adultery website got attacked but folks like us, who are still totally in love and focused on each other, don't need to worry . . . Honey? Are you there?"

Lane Filler is a member of Newsday's editorial board.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.