So, I thought I’d try downloading the recent dump of the Ashley Madison database just for kicks. I’m not really a hacking-the-dark-web kind of guy, so there’s a bit of a learning curve.
I started by Googling around for news about it, and eventually I found out the files were available via Torrent. So step one was to install a Torrent client.
The next step was to find the torrent for the Ashley Madison data dump. I found a torrent magnet link that seemed legit. I started the download and waited as my internet security software announced one “Malicious Website Blocked” message after another… Just a reminder that this data was coming from a devious part of the internet.
Eventually I had all the files, so the next step was to suck them into a database so I could poke around. Fortunately, they come as a MySQL database dump, which is easy to load. Unfortunately, I don’t have MySQL installed on my home system, so installing it was the next step.
Once I got that done, I imported the membership list, and then did a few SQL queries. Nobody with my last name, so my family is behaving. I tried a couple of other interesting names and also got no results.
Hmm…that’s not very satisfying. Let’s try a common name…yup, lots of Smiths! What about people in Chicago? Yup, got a bunch of those. Anyone I might know? I try my zip code…yup there are a few of those. No one I know. But wait…
What the heck? My zip code is firmly in Chicago, yet these zip codes are coming up all over the nation. Maybe people are putting in fake addresses. Or maybe it’s all fake.
I decide to try a few names a little more unusual than Smith… Nothing. No Changs, no Lees, no Patels, and there are a crapton of people with those names in the world. That’s not good. One more test, just to be sure…I query for how many times every last name appears in the database and find a smoking gun: There are a lot of last names, but all of them appear with equal frequency. That’s a sure sign. Real data is never that random.
Crap. I got fake data. I’d heard there was a lot of that going around.
And I guess when it comes to Ashley Madison, fake data shouldn’t surprise me.