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Ashley Madison Hack Will End Careers

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By Dr. Chuck Russo, program director of Criminal Justice at American Military University

In July 2015, hackers accessed account information of millions of users of the Ashley Madison, Cougar Life, and Established Men websites. These websites facilitate extramarital affairs as well as romantic and sexual encounters.

Wedding Ring_Ashley MadisonThe information stolen during such database hacks can include personal and financial information that people do not want made public. While this stolen information could result in identity theft and fraud, these recent database hacks may have longer-lasting effects for the criminal justice community.

These hacks create two levels of impact on the criminal justice community: the need to investigate and solve the crime as well as the potential loss of trust in any public service personnel who may have used these sites.

CNN reported that almost 7,000 user addresses are tied to the U.S. and Canadian governments, including federal attorneys and personnel of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice.

On the local government level, the state attorney of Orange County, Florida, Jeff Ashton, held a news conference where he admitted to visiting the Ashley Madison site from the courthouse network. Ashton is a married man and the publicly elected head prosecutor. Governor Rick Scott of Florida has been asked to have the state’s highest law enforcement agency investigate Ashton’s activity on the site.

Impact on Law Enforcement Officers
If a married law enforcement officer is found to have accessed these sites, that officer’s credibility and truthfulness can be brought into question. A defense attorney could use this information to raise doubts about an officer’s testimony before a judge or jury. Public confidence could be lost.

In Florida, as well as in other states, an officer could even lose his or her ability to be a law enforcement or corrections officer. In Florida, law enforcement and corrections officers are regulated by the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission (CJSTC). Administrative code 11B-27.0011 deals with moral character as a factor in certification and employment or appointment.

If an officer fails to maintain good moral character as defined by this administrative code, the officer’s certification could be revoked, suspended, or otherwise impacted.

Impact on Future Officers
Future criminal justice applicants may also be impacted by this data breach. As a former law enforcement background investigator for eight years, I utilized information obtained on the public web while conducting my investigations. The information I obtained was used to evaluate the applicant’s ability to make acceptable decisions in the future.

To evaluate a candidate, we looked at past decisions to attempt to predict future decisions. If a married applicant was discovered to be accessing one of these sites during the marriage, that could that call into question the applicant’s truthfulness and credibility. For some agencies, that would be enough to remove an individual from the application process.

The fallout from this data breach will continue. In the upcoming weeks and months, we will likely hear of others who have been impacted on a personal and professional level. Some may become victims of crimes, others may see their marriages end, and those whose credibility and truthfulness is integral to their job may be forced to seek employment in other professions.

Chuck RussoAbout the Author: Dr. Chuck Russo is the Program Director of Criminal Justice at American Military University (AMU). He began his career in law enforcement in 1987 in Central Florida and was involved all areas of patrol, training, special operations and investigations before retiring from law enforcement in 2013. Dr. Russo continues to design and instruct courses, as well as act as a consultant for education, government and industry throughout the United States and the Middle East. His recent research and presentations focus on emerging technology and law enforcement applications, in addition to post-traumatic stress and online learning.

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