Luckily, most of the data has never been used against the various sites' customers for blackmail – until now. Would it embarrass a number of prominent individuals?
I first spoke about the idea of a "social ripple" in 2007, after identifying a number of security flaws within one of the biggest dating web sites. Would it sway focus in the workplace from business issues to personal issues, leaving companies floating temporarily without guidance? It is an uncomfortable thought that most dating sites have already been breached, and that your dating info may already be stolen.
Over the past 20 years we have moved a very significant part of our identity online.
Back in 2009, working with then Washington Post reporter Brian Krebs, I detected a vulnerability in another popular adult dating site – Seeking Arrangements.
The vulnerability allowed attackers to bypass all authentication needed to access private profiles, messages and other supposedly secure information.
And its Canadian-based parent company said it will no longer use female "bots" or automated programs that respond to members pretending to be women on the hunt for men.
A statement Monday from Avid Life Media, the parent firm of Ashley Madison, announced "a new direction and total repositioning" of the service.
Although the site owner gave assurances that the issue was fixed, the site remained vulnerable for another year and a half, despite my attempts to contact them.
Gleeden, a similar dating site for extramarital affairs, was breached last year and had 1.8m user records stolen.On the Ashley Madison website, the longtime slogan "Life is Short, Have an Affair" was gone, and replaced by an image of a modestly dressed woman and a button saying "See Your Matches." The retooled website says it is "more than an affair site." "Ashley Madison today is about so much more than infidelity, it's about all kinds of adult dating," the website says."In fact, a large number of our millions of members around the globe are singles drawn to the site because they want the kind of discretion Ashley Madison has been synonymous with for over a decade.What would happen if people's dating messages become public? And it is especially difficult to realise how many of your personal thoughts and desires could be used against you, even years after you shared them in a place you thought was a private and secure environment. Whether it takes place in some of the more immoral forms or not, it is an integral part of our culture.As long as there is perceived value in dating sites' data, there will be malicious individuals wanting to exploit them.The fallout led to reports of blackmail and even suicides.