The fallout from the Ashley Madison data breach continues to be felt, with the hackers behind the attack releasing huge amounts of information stolen from the dating website's servers this week.
First, there was the release of the personal information of millions of the site's members, as the hackers followed through with a previous threat to make their stolen data public unless the site was taken offline. Shortly after this, more details, seeming to include the emails of the firm's chief executive, were leaked - though the BBC noted these files appear to be corrupted.
The huge amount of publicity given to this hack is highly embarrassing not only for the site's owners, but its users. Some parts of the media have gleefully been combing through the data, identifying people who've signed up via government or military email accounts, for instance. One radio station in Australia was even criticised for telling a woman her husband's information was included in the breach live on air.
Ashley Madison's situation is particularly awkward given its business model and promises of discretion. But it goes to show just how damaging a large-scale hack can be for any business that holds sensitive information on its customers. In this case, media interest has no doubt been heightened by the salacious nature of the details, but any company could find itself facing similarly angry customers should they fall victim to a hack.
In the short term, there can be no doubt that Ashley Madison's reputation is in tatters, and there are serious doubts whether it will ever be able to recover. A class-action lawsuit is reported to be already under way in the US, and further legal consequences may well be likely in the longer term.
Therefore, to avoid a similar fate, it's vital that companies across all industries take steps to ensure their security defences are as robust as possible. Although the hackers behind the Ashley Madison breach remain unidentified, they have shown themselves to be highly adept at not only breaking into confidential databases, but disseminating and publicising the information they took.
With the level of sophistication of hackers growing all the time, it's important they companies are equally able to constantly improve their techniques and meet new threats.