Post-Ashley Madison: The Other Dating-Site Hacks That Would Ruin Lives
Sure, those folks were cheaters. But there's enough data in the most benign profiles to embarrass anyone, if it were leaked
The Ashley Madison hack comes just two months after the breach of Adult Friend Finder, and it’s only a matter of time before another dating site is cracked, according to cyber security experts.
“From a cyber-security standpoint, all the dating sites are pretty sloppy,” says Rajesh Goel, a former Intel executive and tech analyst who has researched and written about the permeabilty of dating sites like Ashley Madison. Dating sites, he says, don’t have the regulatory requirements and standards that banking and healthcare companies have, and even with several extra layers of security and bureaucracy, those sites still get hacked, exposing personal and financial data. Some dating sites are not only unregulated—they gather both sensitive personal information and credit card numbers. The combination creates extra risk for users.
“Every dating site can be hacked.” says Goel. That’s not to say that any one dating site is more vulnerable than the next, or that Goel has information that hackers have been snooping around a particular site. But in the wake of the Ashley Madison leak, as e-sleuths across the world are sorting through the private information and sexual preferences of 32 million people, hackers can now see the sort of attention they can stir up by leaking dating data.
That could make other dating sites an enticing target. Below are a handful of sites that, if hacked, could cause the most embarrassment for users.
Estimated number of users: 5 million
Embarrassment Potential: While most people using Grindr are openly gay men looking for casual sex and longterm relationships, there are many who use it to live a double life. A few conservative politicians and anti-gay religious leaders have already lost their jobs and their families after their accounts were discovered. A Grindr leak has the potential to rattle the political world. Since the app shows users’ precise locations, it would be difficult to deny activity.
Estimated number of users: 350,000
Embarrassment Potential: Pronunced “Thrinder” and brandishing the tagline “Meet kinky, curious and openminded people,” this app is probably what you assume it is: Tinder for threesomes. And since both threesomes and polygamy still carry a social stigma, many leaked users would be publicly shamed.
Estimated number of users: More than 1 million
Embarrassment Potential: This site allows people with herpes, HIV, AIDS, chlamydia and other STDs to find other people with the same disease. Many users can join anonymously and without entering any payment information, but some premium features require a credit card.
Number of users: 50 million
Embarrassment Potential: Tinder no longer holds the same stigma it did when it was first launched, but depending on what messages someone is exchanging with other users, a hack could be damaging. While Tinder may be fine for celebrities like Ed Sheeran and Katy Perry (both have admitted using the service), married public figures, especially politicians, could be shamed for private messages and arrangements.
Number of users: 2.5 million
Embarrassment Potential: Formerly known as Bang With Friends, this app lets users swipe whether or not they want to “Get Date” or “Get Down,” so a leak would show which users just wanted to use the site for casual sex.
Number of users: 12 million
Embarrassment Potential: Even though OkCupid has less of a stigma than many other dating sites, users are still strongly encouraged to answer hundreds of questions about sexual fetishes, STDs and number of sexual partners. Some of the questions include: Have you ever dated or been with an exotic dancer?; Drinking and driving can be kind of cool. (Yes or No?); Receiving anal sex?; Would you ever consider cutting a partner (who asked for it) in sexual play?
Number of users: Unknown
Embarrassment Potential: OurTime is a dating site for singles over the age of 50. “Most people on here won’t be as graphic as on Tinder or OkCupid,” says Goel. “But that age demographic has a lot of financial wealth attached to it and the data they put on Our Time is going to be mined for years by scammers. It’s a mouthwatering treasure trove of data that somebody can use for the classic grandparent scam that has been going on since the ’40s, where people reach out to senior citizens pretending to be grand children in need of help.”