by Seán McCárthaigh
Almost 1,200 people in Ireland are identified as paid subscribers of the dating website, Ashley Madison on a list leaked as part of an international hacking scandal.
An analysis of millions of records of credit card transactions contains more than 6,150 financial records relating to Irish-based subscribers on the adultery website.
Since 2008, Irish customers of the Canadian-based website who want to have extra-marital affairs have spent around €200,000 on payments to Ashley Madison before last month’s high-profile cyber attack which captured global headlines.
They include one Dubliner who has splashed out almost €10,000 on various types of subscriptions.
A database of millions of credit card transaction contains more than 6,150 financial records relating to Irish-based subscribers on the adultery website.
However, a detailed examination of the records by The Sunday Times identifed approximately 1,150 unique users around the country. The overwhelming majority are male with just 44 female names contained on the list – just under 4% of the total – although the gender of some subscribers is unknown.
All 26 counties are represented on the list with approximately 40% of the total based in Dublin with 477 members.
The next highest number of Ashley Madison paid subscribers are based in Cork (128) followed by Galway (62), Kildare (50) and Limerick (41). The lowest level of interest is, unsurprisingly, in counties with the smallest populations including Leitrim (3), Longford (8) and Carlow (9) with one member even located on one of Ireland’s offshore islands.
In Munster, members of the website were not just based in cities like Cork and Limerick but places like Tralee, Clonmel, Fermoy, Dungarvan and Kilkee and many other smaller towns and villages.
The vast majority of the website’s Irish members used personal e-mails addresses with no links to their employment or job. However, a number of individuals used a business e-mail address with the database containing listings with links to a solicitor’s firm in Munster, a property services company in Dublin, a private investigation firm and an educational website.
The name of a criminal who spent time in prison after being convicted of managing brothels is also on the list.
Others have links to a building firm in the midlands, a pharmacy in Connacht and a furniture supplier in Leinster, while there are also contact details for individuals based in UCD and UCC.
One male subscriber based in Rathfarnham, Co Dublin authorised a total of 123 transactions at a cost of almost €9,770 between October 2010 and August 2014.
The man’s last payment was for €19 – the “full delete” fee associated with getting Ashley Madison to permanently erase a person’s profile including every message, photo and interaction they had on the site.
He also made three payments of €249 during 2011 – the charge for the site’s “affair guaranteed” package.
The database was leaked at the same time as a larger datadump of Ashley Madison’s client base which contained details of some 37 million users of the website, including an estimated 115,000 subscribers with e-mail addresses linked to Ireland.
However, there is significant doubt if such figures relate to unique and actual individuals as there is no means of verifying that people’s e-mail addresses were not registered by others. Among the registered users, more than 12 million had e-mails which were regarded as invalid.
The database containing information of credit card transactions is a separate list and includes the names, residential and e-mail addresses, last four-digits of credit card numbers and IP addresses (computer identifiers).
For such payments, Ashley Madison subscribers are able to send e-mail and priority messages to other subscribers, initiate chat sessions and send virtual gifts, while free members cannot initiate any contact.
Internet searches on the names of a random sample of people on the list confirm many as business executives and professionals who would be well known in their own area, with several involved in running their own business.
Since the start of the leak, Ashley Madison has been forced to defend itself against criticism that few women actively use its service.
The company’s claim that females compromise 5.5 million out of its 37 million clients is seen by many as implausible with computer experts hinting that addresses could have been bulk-bought from marketing companies.
Attention has also been drawn to the fact that the database reveals that only a few thousand women checked their messages or engaged on the site’s chat platform with most non-paying, female subscribers showing no kind of activity on their Ashley Madison account.
In contrast, over 10 million men have initiated chats on the website.
Individuals whose personal details have already been leaked face further anxiety as the hackers behind the original datadump have warned they plan to release tens of thousands of pictures, user chats and private message in the next release of Ashley Madison material.
Police authorities in Canada investigating the leaks have already linked multiple blackmail attempts and a number of suicides to the leak by a group of hackers known as the Impact Team.
Ashley Madison has offered a reward worth almost €350,000 for information which will lead to the arrest and prosecution of those responsible for the leak.
Meanwhile, Avid Life Media, the parent company of Ashley Madison, has insisted the website – whose slogan is “life is short – have an affair” – has never been busier in the aftermath of the hacking scandal.