Do hackers have a right to judge people who seek affairs?

The hackers behind the Ashley Madison data theft aren’t some chaos-minded kids out to wreak disruption, they are “moral vigilantes” punishing people who signed up to cheat on their spouses, according to the owners of the website, which uses the slogan “Life is short. Have an affair”.

The FBI is now investigating the data breach, in which hackers stole the details of 37 million people who signed up to the dating website for those who want to have an affair.

But who are these hackers? And is it their place to pass judgement?

Even more so, who are they to punish the people on the lists, which include up to 1 million Australians?

Yesterday, the hackers, who call themselves The Impact Team, dumped all the names, email addresses, credit card details and personal profiles of the 37 million people who signed up to Ashley Madison on the dark web, a corner of the internet where you can hire an assassin, buy drugs or sell humans.

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The dark web is only accessed by special browsers, but it doesn’t take a genius to work out how to get there. And besides, the information has already started to appear on websites outside the dark web, meaning cheaters should prepare to be exposed.

Toronto-based company Avid Life Media, which owns Ashley Madison has lashed out at the hackers, saying they have appointed themselves as “the moral judge, juror, and executioner, seeing fit to impose a personal notion of virtue on all of society”.

“These are illegitimate acts that have real consequences for innocent citizens who are simply going about their daily lives,” it said in a statement reported on the ABC.

“This event is not an act of hacktivism, it is an act of criminality. It is an illegal action against the individual members of, as well as any freethinking people who choose to engage in fully lawful online activities.”

The Impact Team released this statement with the data dump: “Avid Life Media has failed to take down Ashley Madison and Established Men.

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“We have explained the fraud, deceit, and stupidity of ALM [Avid Life Media] and their members. Now everyone gets to see their data.”

Do you think it’s up to hackers to punish people who want to cheat on their partners? Do you have any sympathy for the victims or is it a case of making your own bed and lying in it?