After hackers breached one of the Internet’s largest adult dating sites, nearly four million users are finding their so-called “private” lives exposed.
According to the UK’s Channel 4 News, the stolen data of 3.9 million Adult FriendFinder accounts includes information like users’ sexual preferences and sexual orientations; it even lists which users might be seeking extramarital affairs. The hackers also exposed users’ email addresses, dates of birth, postal codes and unique IP addresses.
Some of the members whose information was leaked had even asked Adult FriendFinder to delete their accounts — but their information stayed in the sites’ databases even after they stopped using the dating service.
“I deleted my account, so I thought the information had gone,” said Shaun Harper, one of the victims of the hack whose information was exposed. “These sites are meant to be secure.”
Adult FriendFinder has about 64 million members across the globe and bills itself as a “thriving sex community” where users can “hook up, find sex or meet someone hot now.” As soon as a user signs up, he or she discloses sensitive sexual information with the site.
Websites like Adult FriendFinder, that contain data on tens of millions of people, are popular targets for hackers looking to trade in this data for a profit on the so-called “dark web,” Channel 4 News reported.
Hackers aren’t just targeting online dating sites — the U.S. federal government alone has seen a shocking 680% jump in the number of cyber security breaches it has seen over the last six years.
Charlie McMurdie, a cybercrime specialist for PwC and former head of the London Metropolitan Police’s electronic crime unit, says hackers typically target government officials in an effort to blackmail them.
“Where you’ve got names, dates of birth, ZIP codes, then that provides an opportunity to actually target specific individuals whether they be in government or healthcare for example, so you can profile that person and send more targeted blackmail-type emails,” he said.
Despite Adult FriendFinder’s front page featuring photos of women, the victims of this cyber-crime are primarily men. The site’s user base has a ratio of one woman for every 16 men.
FriendFinder Networks, the Silicon Valley-based company that owns and operates Adult Friend Finder, has advised users to change their usernames and passwords, and has hired a cyber-security expert to investigate the breach, ABC News reported.