LaGrange, Hogansville officials investigate emails

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 21, 2015

By Donny Karr

LaGRANGE — Two local cities are looking into whether any city employees registered work email accounts with the adult affair website Ashley Madison.

Officials from LaGrange and Hogansville said that they are investigating whether any of the registered users — made publicly available by hackers — belong to employees using a city email account.

“We are speaking to our department heads, and we will be investigating whether or not they used their work emails for this website,” said Hogansville City Manager James Woods. “Any use of a city email address for a website like that would certainly be in violation of our policies regarding employee emails.”

West Point City Manager Ed Moon said that officials there have no plans to investigate employee email use with the website.

“We are not aware of any employees that have used this site,” said Moon. “City email is for city business.”

Officials from LaGrange, Hogansville and West Point said that use of city employee email on the website is against policies regarding emails.

“As I understand this website, it would be a violation of policy to access it on the city’s network or using a city email account,” said LaGrange City Manager Tom Hall. “We have searched the data dump from the Ashley Madison hack. There were no city email accounts listed in the database.”

The website is a service that links married individuals together specifically for the purpose of cheating on their spouses. The website’s highest membership rate guarantees its users will have an affair.

Hackers claim to have exposed partners across the world, posting what they said were the personal details of millions of people registered with the website. Some websites have created searchable databases that anyone can use to search specific email addresses registered with the website.

U.S. government employees with sensitive jobs in national security or law enforcement were among hundreds of federal workers found to be using government networks to access and pay membership fees to the cheating website, The Associated Press reported.

The list includes at least two assistant U.S. attorneys, an information technology administrator in the White House’s support staff, a Justice Department investigator, a division chief, and a government hacker and counterterrorism employee at the Homeland Security Department. Others visited from networks operated by the Pentagon.

Federal policies vary by agency as to whether employees could visit websites during work hours like Ashley Madison, which could be considered akin to a dating website. But such use raises questions about what personal business is acceptable — and what websites are OK to visit — for U.S. workers on taxpayer time, especially those with sensitive jobs who could face blackmail.

Hackers this week released detailed records on millions of people registered with the website one month after the break-in at Ashley Madison’s parent company, Toronto-based Avid Life Media Inc. The website — whose slogan is, “Life is short. Have an affair” — is marketed to facilitate extramarital affairs.

Few connecting from federal networks had listed government email accounts when subscribing. But the AP was able to trace their government Internet connections, logged by the website over five years and as recently as June. They encompass more than two dozen agencies, such as the departments of State, Justice, Energy, Treasury and Transportation. Others came from House or Senate computer networks.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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