Ashley Madison says “hundreds of thousands of new users” have joined the dating site despite its recent hack, writes GARETH VAN ZYL.|Ashley Madison says “hundreds of thousands of new users” have joined the dating site despite its recent hack, writes GARETH VAN ZYL.
On August 18, hackers dubbed the ‘Impact Team’ infiltrated Ashley Madison’s database and leaked details of over 30 million users of the site.
The hack has wreaked havoc on personal lives while prominent politicians and celebrities in the UK and US have been exposed as using the service.
In turn, the company that owns Ashley Madison, Avid Life Media, is in turmoil as its chief executive officer Noel Biderman stepped down late last week.
Avid Life Media is also facing court hearings in the US and Canada over the hacking breach.
However, the company on Monday released a statement that said its user base is still growing, despite the negative attention on the company.
“Despite having our business and customers attacked, we are growing,” Avid Life Media said.
“This past week alone, hundreds of thousands of new users signed up for the Ashley Madison platform – including 87 596 women,” the company added.
Avid Life Media, in its statement on Monday, also tried to dispel reports that said the site has few female users.
A report by website Gizmodo last week said that few of Ashley Madison’s 5.5 million female users were real.
Gizmodo reported that there was little activity from the said 5.5 million female users while the site has an estimated 31 million male subscribers.
“The more I examined those 5.5 million female profiles, the more obvious it became that none of them had ever talked to men on the site, or even used the site at all after creating a profile,” wrote Gizmodo editor Annalee Newitz.
But Avid Life Media has hit back at this report.
The company said that “some journalists have turned the focus of the criminal act against Ashley Madison inside out, attacking us instead of the hackers”.
“Last week, a reporter who claimed to analyse the stolen data made incorrect assumptions about the meaning of fields contained in the leaked data. This reporter concluded that the number of active female members on Ashley Madison could be calculated based on those assumptions. That conclusion was wrong,” said Avid Life Media.
Avid Life Media went on to say that last week “women sent more than 2.8 million messages within our platform”.
Avid Life Media also said the ratio of men who paid to communicate with women versus the number of women who actively used their account was 1.2 to 1.
The company said that women are not required to pay to communicate with men on Ashley Madison.
The statement also said that Ashley Madison has customers in “nearly every zip code in the United States, as well as users in more than 50 countries around the world”.
In South Africa, reports have indicated that there were around 49 0000 .za email addresses exposed by the Ashley Madison hack.
Data journalism takes top prize in revamped awards
The entries to the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards were extraordinarily varied and of an excellent standard, with new categories introduced which are based on content as opposed to platforms. This year, the judges decided that two entries were equally worthy of the coveted Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award.
The first co-winning entry, in the new Data Journalism category, is a set of stories by Alastair Otter and Laura Grant of Media Hack which showed how Data Journalism is shaping the future. The second co-winning entrant is Bongani Fuzile of the Daily Dispatch for his articles in the investigative category on how migrant workers were being ripped off by pension deductions (full citations below).
Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher says: “This year we modernised the 12 categories that journalists could enter their work in and the change was embraced by entrants. In a turbulent time for media, the 2018 entries once again proved that there are excellent South African journalists delivering praiseworthy work, and we commend them for finding new and innovative ways to cover the news.”
Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at the Vodacom Group, says: “Vodacom is proud of its 17-year association with these prestigious awards, which make an important contribution to our society through the recognition of journalistic excellence. I’d like to congratulate all of tonight’s winners and, as always, I’d like to pay tribute to our hardworking judges. Ryland Fisher, Mathatha Tsedu, Arthur Goldstuck, Collin Nxumalo, Elna Rossouw, Patricia McCracken, Megan Rusi, Mary Papayya, Albe Grobbelaar and Obed Zilwa: thank you for making these awards a continued success.”
Veteran journalist and media stalwart Ms Amina Frense is the winner of the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Lifetime Achiever Award. She has spent decades in mainstream media both locally and internationally. She is a former Managing Editor: News and Current Affairs at the SA Broadcasting Corporation. She has worked in many countries abroad as a producer and a foreign correspondent, has written two books and is also a founding member of SANEF where she still serves as a council member (full citation below).
The overall winners share the R100 000 main prize. National winners in the various categories are as follows, with each winner taking home R10 000:
The entries in this category were of an exceptionally high standard. One entrant stood out and became the unanimous winner. This journalist showed an exceptional skill for story-telling and for finding unexpected angles and unknown facts. For his stories about Musangwe’s fight for recognition, Age cheating in SA football, and Hansie Cronje revisited, the winner is Ronald Masinda, and the team of Gift Kganyago, Nceba Ntlanganiso and Charles Lombard from eSAT TV.
Cons exploit Telegram ICO
Kaspersky Lab researchers have uncovered dozens of highly convincing fake websites claiming to be investment sites for an initial coin offering (ICO) by the Telegram messaging service. Many of these websites appear to belong to the same group. In one case alone, tens of thousands of US dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency were stolen from victims believing they were investing in ‘Grams’, Telegram’s rumoured new currency. Telegram has not officially confirmed an ICO and has warned people about fraudulent investor sites.
In late 2017, stories started to circulate that the Telegram messaging service was launching an initial coin offering (ICO) to finance a blockchain platform based on its TON (Telegram Open Network) technology. Unverified technical documentation was posted online, but there appears to have been no confirmation from Telegram itself. The resulting confusion seems to have allowed fraudsters to capitalise on investor interest by creating fake sites and stealing vast sums of money.
Kaspersky Lab researchers have discovered dozens of such sites, possibly belonging to the same group, claiming to sell tokens for ‘Grams’ and inviting investors to pay with cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, lice litecoin, dash and Bitcoin dash. A record of transactions on one site revealed that the scammers were able to steal at least $35,000 US dollars’ worth of Ethereum from investors.
The researchers found that some of the websites were so convincing that even after Telegram and others began to issue warnings, they were still able to recruit potential investors. Most use a secure connection, require registration and generate a unique online wallet for each new victim, making it harder to track the money.
Judging by the content of the fake websites, it appears they may have common ownership. For example, several have the exactly the same ‘Our Team’ section.
“ICOs are a fairly risky investment and many people don’t yet fully understand how they work, so it is not surprising that high quality fake websites, with seemingly reassuring features such as a secure connection and registration are successful at luring people in. People wishing to invest in an ICO would do well to check with the company behind it and make sure they know exactly who they are giving their money to, or they may never see it again,” said Nadezhda Demidova, Lead Web-Content Analyst, Kaspersky Lab.
Kaspersky Lab offers the following advice for users considering investing in an ICO:
- Check for warning signs: for example, some of the fake Telegram ICO websites had the same wrong image next to the name of Telegram’s Chief Product Officer.
- Do your homework: always check with the brand’s official site to verify the legitimacy of the investment site and, if necessary contact the company’s ICO teams before investing any money or currency.
- Use reliable security solutions such as Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, which will warn you if you try to visit fake internet pages.