The Ashley Madison hack was one of the most scandalous, controversial, and revealing cyber incident this year. This is no surprise, considering that the website Ashley Madison in itself is full of scandal and controversy. For those of you who don’t know what Ashley Madison is, it’s an online dating service that is marketed to people who are married or in a relationship. Bluntly put, the agency’s motto is “Life is short. Have an affair.” The site was widely popular, with over 39 million users in 53 countries. In July and August of this year, hackers released all of Ashley Madison’s customer’s data, including emails, names, addresses, sexual fantasies and even credit card information. Talk about every cheater’s nightmare. The obvious consequence was millions of Ashley Madison users being revealed as cheaters, even if they never had sex or followed through with an affair with another member. The hack continues to fascinate the general public as we watch it unravel, and consequently we’re bringing you five revelations from the Ashley Madison scandal.
1. Celebrity users were revealed.
Possibly the most entertaining aspect of the Ashley Madison hack was watching all of the celebrity users be revealed as cheaters. Some were more surprising than others, and some had good explanations while others just dug themselves a grave. Perhaps the most shocking user on the site was “19 Kids and Counting” star Josh Duggar. This was a tough year for Josh as far as reveals are concerned; earlier it was revealed that Josh inappropriately touched his two younger sisters when he was a teen. The devout Christian, husband, and father, confessed spending nearly $1,000 on memberships in the span of two years. In a statement, he admitted feeling ashamed for living a double life and for his sex addiction that caused him to cheat on his wife. Christian Youtube star of “Sam and Nia” Sam Radar was also revealed on the site. Sam and Nia have a Youtube channel chronicling their lives as parents of two, who also have suffered a miscarriage. Shortly after it was revealed that Sam was a member on the site, he took to Youtube to clear the air and ask for forgiveness. He admitted that he had signed up for the site two years earlier and that Nia was already aware and had forgiven him. In fact, Nia appeared next to Sam in the video. The last main celebrity who was revealed by the hack was Josh Taekman, husband of Real Housewives of New York star Kristen Taekman and father of two children. Most RHONY viewers assumed that this would be the final straw as Kristen and Josh have a rather public tumultuous relationship, but Josh released a statement saying they are moving past the incident.
2. Influential figures, including pastors and politicians, were revealed.
No one is perfect, and nothing is more evident of that fact than when public servants are exposed for their faults. Florida State Attorney Jeff Ashton gained fame when he was the prosecutor on the infamous Casey Anthony murder trial. For further unfortunate circumstances, Jeff Ashton is back in the news as an Ashley Madison cheater. Ashton admitted to being a user and said it was a mistake and hoped that his 35-year career wouldn’t be tainted because of one mistake. He also made it clear that his membership never moved past the point of curiosity, AKA he never physically cheated. On a sadder and darker note, a pastor who was outed because of the hack consequently committed suicide. John Gibson was pastor, husband, and father, and was so depressed and ashamed of his cheating he decided to take his life.
3. You’re never completely safe or anonymous online.
Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways that we should consider from the Ashley Madison hack is that no one is entirely safe nor anonymous online. The Ashley Madison hack shook millions of people because of it’s sensitive and hurtful revelations, but there’s something bigger we need to take from this. Despite the amount of security guarantees, privacy checks, and anonymous features, what you do online can always be traced back to you. Clearly, this particular hack is a dramatic example, but it’s something we should remember when posting on social media or doing any cyber transaction. We witnessed firsthand how the Ashley Madison hack ruined and even took lives, and it should remind us how you can never disconnect what you do online with what you do in real time. By this, I mean what you say, what sites you visit, who you speak to, and what you associate yourself with online will come full circle into your offline life as well. Think twice about your next step online, and remember that nothing is known to no one.