Category Archives: Weirdness

Adventures in Ashley Madison

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.

It’s the Better Government Party…or Is It?

I get a lot of spammy email about political issues and politics, but this one caught my attention:

Subject: A New Political Party- The Better Government Party Created by Mike Mann

Dear Mark,

I hope this e-mail finds you well!

I wanted to introduce my client, Mike Mann, to you in regards to your upcoming political features and interviews. A Washington D.C. native and Domain guru, Mann has decided to take on the task of establishing a new political party in the United States that he has dubbed the Better Government Party. We would love for you to highlight him in a business and/or political spotlight feature.

Mike Mann is the founder of non-profit and for-profit corporations including:

— SEO.com

— DomainMarket.com

Oh. That’s pretty much where I could have stopped reading. Because nobody in their right mind wants one of those search-engine-optimizing domain hoarding sleezebags to have political power.

But I didn’t stop reading. It was just too weird:

His vision for the Better Government Party is to eventually displace Republicans and Democrats, whose parties he says are useless, corrupt and fraudulent. His party will be built on transparency, trust and accountability. Better Government Party is willing to move past the political differences that divide our great nation along superficial lines.

**Mann is known as the man who bought up 14,962 domain names in 24 hours and had the three fastest-growing companies on the Inc. 500 in 2012. A lifelong philanthropist and lobbyist, Mann has the knowledge, experience and background that has readied him to create a party built on transparency, trust and accountability.

“Americans are so used to Congressmen lying, cheating and stealing that they have been conditioned to think it’s acceptable,” says the 46-year-old Washington, D.C., native, whose mother worked for the Environmental Protection Agency and father defended cases before the Supreme Court. “I’m trained and studied. I’m from Washington. I know this stuff.”

Yeah, okay. That doesn’t sound at all nutty.

Also, “better government for everybody” (or whatever) is not exactly an informative party platform. Before I’d support someone, I’d want to know what his vision of better government looks like.

So at this point I just had to visit the website to take a look at his — er, I mean the Better Government Party’s — positions on the issues. At first it all seemed like a lot of populist pablum. For example, this is from the vision statement:

Fiercely anti government corruption

Believes in healthcare for all US citizens

Believes in the best education for all US citizens

Believes in very strong environmental protection

Believes in an extremely simplistic tax structure like a flat tax or value added tax

Believes in free market economics

That’s a little vague, not to mention that the healthcare, education, and environmental positions are in conflict with the free market position. And frankly, it’s hart to tell from this short sample, but the whole site has a kind of “assembled from scraps” feel to it.

My first clue was at the bottom of the vision statement page, where I found this note:

Thanks for reading

Disrupt the Status Quo! — go Third Party!

Please also see:

http://MakeMillions.com/

http://Grassroots.org/

He’s actually linking to some of his other websites, including his “get rich quick” book.

Then I noticed that every page on the party site has an ad for WebStreetJournal.com, another one of his properties. There’s also a domains page on the Better Government Party website which has the message, “Do you have what it takes to turn one of these domains into a powerful next generation corporation or charity?”

Given that it’s on the Party site, you might think these are domains being offered to like-minded individuals or organizations as part of an effort to build a grassroots movement, but that turns out not to be the case. This is just a list of domains for sale at Mann’s DomainMarket.com site: HelpAmerica.com lists for $15,000, StopTheHate.com lists for $25,000, and InnerCityYouth.com lists for a whopping $45,000.

Holy Crap! Do you see what’s really going on here? I’m about 95% convinced that Mike Mann must have realized that the upcoming elections in 2014 and 2016 will cause a surge of online discussion of politics and decided to start a political party — or at least the web presence necessary for a half-assed pretense of a political party — in order to attract links that will boost the search engine page rank for his business sites.

That would mean the entire Better Government Party is one big SEO strategy for his other sites.

Restore Stephen Baldwin? WTF?

I thought this was a joke, but it looks like they’re serious. This just might be the dumbest idea on the internet.

Stephen Baldwin of the famous “Baldwin Brothers” Hollywood clan is a veteran actor who has starred in over 60 films and TV shows. He is no stranger to the Hollywood life of glitz, glamour and the public eye.

In 2002, he had an experience that changed his life forever. He became a Born Again Christian, giving his life to Jesus Christ. Over the next few years, he became very vocal about his faith, using his spotlight to boldly preach the gospel. However, because of his convictions it has caused him the loss of many jobs and the most recently, a highly publicized bankruptcy.

He has been publicly ridiculed and insulted by people who think that he has been abandoned by God. A simple search through the internet will reveal that people not only mock Stephen, but mock God.

In response to this (with the permission of Stephen’s ministry President Daniel Southern) we have established RestoreStephenBaldwin.org. A privately funded and managed website. Our vision is to see Stephen Baldwin publicly restored in front of millions. Stephen’s platform will increase allowing him to reach even more people with the Gospel and God will get all of the glory. Publicly.

Everyone knows that God restored Job, but do they understand the mechanism of his restoration? Job was restored by the people. By “All Who Knew Him”. This website was created to see a rebirth of that mechanism. If the people of God come together and each give a small “Token Gift” we can see a massive restoration of a Christian public figure and all the glory will go to God. Its simple, will you take part in the second ever All Who Know Him event?

Uh. No.

If you feel inspired to give money for a good purpose, but propping up a B-list celebrity has-been isn’t your idea of charity, the Pacific Garden Mission could probably put your money to better use.

Update: Oh wow. As of May 9th, they took the site down. Possibly because of this video. Pussies. 

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