Some 64 million members of an online dating site have reason to be a little more cautious today after news broke that AdultFriendFinder had suffered a data breach. The scope of the breach isn’t yet known, but the company is already alerting users to the fact that names, addresses, email addresses, sexual orientations, marital statuses, and other sensitive information may have been accessed.
The dating site, which bills itself as a website where members can find other interested parties for casual sex or other spontaneous meetups, is part of a much larger parent company called Friend Finder Networks, which has more than 600 million members across its 40,000 websites.
There are always questions when a data breach occurs, and one of the major ones for consumers is, “What will a thief do with my information?”
If credit card information or Social Security numbers are stolen in a breach, then there’s a good chance there could be financial repercussions. But if those pieces of the puzzle are missing, there are still plenty of ways the data can be useful to a thief. Email addresses can be used for phishing attempts, but can also be sold to online marketers for spam. Physical addresses can lead to mail fraud and “dumpster diving,” which can then easily turn into other potential forms of identity theft, scams, or fraud.
But whenever a “mature” website or similar online activity is at the heart of the crime, there is another concern. While this type of crime will hopefully never befall a victim of identity theft, there is always the potential for extortion. Given that this data breach included highly personal information that many of the members might not want shared, it’s alarming to think that a thief could extort money from some of the members in exchange for not blasting the news of their participation in a site dedicated to sexual relationships with strangers. This practice has unfortunately become so commonplace in the world of social media that it has its own term, sextortion.
Unfortunately, at this stage in the investigation of any data breach, the company involved and the forensic team they’ve brought in to uncover the extent of the damage cannot discuss the details. An official statement from Friend Finder did have this to say: “Until the investigation is completed, it will be difficult to determine with certainty the full scope of the incident, but we will continue to work vigilantly to address this potential issue and will provide updates as we learn more from our investigation.”