By an amusing coincidence, the hackers chose last Tuesday — the eve of Bill Clinton’s birthday — to reveal the details of 33m users secretly registered to Ashley Madison, a website intended mainly for married people seeking affairs. Among them was a man we will call Tom.
A good-looking, dark-haired, thirtysomething graduate, Tom was single when he joined the site, so at first the leak did not concern him much.
“I created an account on Ashley Madison because I was not looking for a romantic relationship,” he said. “I didn’t want to lead anyone on. I figured that married women on the site are going to cheat with someone, eventually, so why shouldn’t it be with me?” As the week’s revelations continued, however, Tom became increasingly concerned.
Hackers from the self-styled Impact Team infiltrated the site last month, stealing huge quantities of data.
First, email addresses appeared on the internet — allegedly belonging to people with Ashley Madison accounts. Soon there were more specific details: names, addresses, sexual preferences, messages, rumours of naked photographs. By yesterday the world could read every kinky detail — the spanking, the cross-dressing, the sex toys — that Ashley Madison’s users had shared.
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