On Tuesday night, a group of hackers called the Impact Team released data on the 37 million users of hookup website Ashley Madison. The hackers first infiltrated the site last month and said they would go public with their information if the site wasn’t taken down (spoiler alert: it wasn’t).
Computer security experts immediately got to work analyzing the data, and among their most disturbing discoveries was that 15,000 .mil or .gov email addresses were included in Ashley Madison’s archives.
The immediate impulse would be to engage in a kind of willful schadenfreude—high-profile cheaters deserve to have their misdeeds exposed, even if blackmail is the result. But several pundits, such as MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, warned that if hackers can get info on infidelity, bombshells about medical records or tax returns can’t be far behind.
This same dichotomy of laughs mixed with genuine worry played itself out among Twitter users. #AshleyMadisonHack was among the top trends Wednesday morning, and played host to a parade of mixed emotions.
Some tweeters used a joking tone, satirically predicting the results of the data breach for the politicians, performers and students who are hypothetically involved:
Others, however, looked into the crystal ball and saw the future implications of this hack, not just for Ashley Madison users but for the Internet and society as a whole:
It’s easy to laugh at the Ashley Madison hack, but it proves that online privacy is no longer a given, even at the highest levels of security. The fact that the Impact Team can make A-list extramarital affairs public knowledge should make everyone who uses a computer wary about their “private” correspondence. Stay alert, Internet.