Ashley Madison Hack Prompts Speculation About Massive Cyber Attack By 2020

Ashley Madison, a site reserved for people who want to have an affair, once boasted discretion and high-level security. Since they were hacked last week, however, the company's 37 million users have been on edge following threats that their info would be leaked or sold, and speculation has run wild about what similar hackers have in store for the future.

Sony and Target are just two of the big names that have fallen victim to hackers in the past couple of years, with hundreds of thousands of customers affected. In a recent study, two researchers used just a laptop and a cell phone to hack into a Jeep Cherokee's computer system. The results were terrifying: reporter Andy Greenberg was driving at the time at nearly 70 mph.

"As the two hackers remotely toyed with the air-conditioning, radio, and windshield wipers, I mentally congratulated myself on my courage under pressure. That's when they cut the transmission. Immediately my accelerator stopped working. As I frantically pressed the pedal and watched the RPMs climb, the Jeep lost half its speed, then slowed to a crawl. This occurred just as I reached a long overpass, with no shoulder to offer an escape. The experiment had ceased to be fun," Greenberg wrote.

According to Thomas Lee at the Guardian, our history of cyber attacks is nothing compared to what lies ahead if the trend continues. With everyone and their grandma owning smartphones and the continued appeal of having technology at one's fingertips -- including meat smokers enabled with Bluetooth -- it seems Americans are practically inviting the hackers in.

By 2020, the U.S. "will be hit with an earthquake of a cyber-attack that will cripple banks, stock exchanges, power plants and communications, an executive from Hewlett-Packard predicted. Companies are nowhere near prepared for it. Neither are the Feds. And yet, instead of mobilising a national defence, we want a toaster that communicates with the washing machine over the internet," Lee wrote.

As for Ashley Madison, several lists have popped up on Reddit that supposedly hold user information that was leaked, but none of them have been confirmed as authentic. The hacking group responsible reportedly made the threats because the site allegedly offers to scrub a user's info for a $19 fee, but in reality keeps credit card numbers on file. Experts say there's a good chance the hackers will sell any information they have rather than leak it for free online.

[Photo courtesy Ashley Madison]