'Leaked' files reveal existing security concerns at Ashley Madison

Techworld analyses the "leaked" documents published by the impact team yesterday, which appear to reveal the security holes that may have contributed to the Ashley Madison hack - if they are the real deal.

"Leaked" Ashley Madison documents reveal the existing security concerns at the hacked extra-marital affair website.

Ashley Madison is a dating site for married users that wish to have an affair which boasts 40 million international users.

The company, whose tagline is "Life is short. Have an affair," is owned by owned by Avid Life Media, which is also responsible for Established Men, Swappernet (a swinger's site) and The Big and the Beautiful (a site for larger singles).

It appears that security leads at Avid Life Media feared misbehaving individuals could create accounts and crawl (the technique of scraping or fetching and gathering information) search results, linking users to their private lives through facial recognition, image metadata and location coordinates.

Ashley Madison's security experts, including Toronto-based Security Director Mark Steele and Chief Technology Officer Trevor Sykes, were also concerned that employees at New Relic - a data analysis company - and IT services provider OnX could leak the company's customer data.

The list of potential security, system availability and disclosure holes were published alongside the database of 37 million customer's personal details - including sexual preferences, addresses, full names and partial credit card details. The details were stolen by a group of hackers called The Impact Team in July.

The group threatened to release the names of users on the website if Avid Life Media refused to shut down Ashley Madison, which it alleged was defrauding customers by promising a 'delete all' feature for users intent on discretion. The impact team claimed that Avid Life Media had not been completely eradicating user's information if they wanted to opt out, as advertised, while still charging them for the service.

Pinf application development

The alleged leaked database that has been circulating online, seen by Techworld, includes documents titled 'Ashley Madison's technology stack'.

If the document describing Ashley Madison's stack is to be taken at face value, it appears the IT directors had little faith in its underlying framework. Describing "Pinf", which is the proprietary framework used to develop the website, the document stated: "No one knows what the acronym PINF is meant to stand for. Much of the code is a decade old and most of it is nonsense. It tries to be an MVC framework, but it fails. It would be more accurate to describe it as a "view first" framework, but even in that context it doesn't quite make sense."

It also included details of technology Avid Life Media use to apply face detection through a restful API on its Silex and an open-source proxy server NginX-based user photo server.

The author of the document is unclear.

Paypal and Ashley Madison's own bank account details leaked?

In addition, details of what were claimed to be the website's Paypal email address and passwords as well as the corporate bank details were published online. This morning, its Paypal accounts had been suspended after it had been used too many times.

Floor plans, a full list of shareholders and details of a loan from the company in the name of founder Noel Biderman (to the value of $3,907,451) were also included in the leaked files.

Impact Team apologises

The impact team appear to have interacted with Mark Steele at some point, whether before or after the hack as it posted a personal apology to him in a text file within the leaked data.

They wrote: "Our one apology is to Mark Steele (Director of Security). You did everything you could, but nothing you could have done could have stopped this."

The group's sympathy was spared for Trevor Sykes however, as it also stated: "Trevor, ALM's CTO once said 'protection of personal information' was his biggest 'critical success factors' [sic] and 'I would hate to see our systems hacked and/or the leak of personal information'

"Well Trevor, welcome to your worst fucking nightmare."

One Cybersecurity expert Kandy Zakba warned users spreading links to the data online that the files were "a big scam, writing on Linkedin: "IMPORTANT ALERT! Ashley Madison Dump Files are for spreading Zero-days and RATs This is a big scam, When you do Torrent on Tor -- the Torrent protocol service will give away the Server and the Clients IP address. The people who are downloading this will be ID'd and it uses javascript so now they have a download that you allow on your machine that plants virus or 0-day, RAT, KeyLoggers or Banking software. anything you want."

On analysis of British users' details, Techworld found that almost all paying members of Ashley Madison were male at the time of the hack.

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