Technological arms race escalates in infidelity wars

 

Bad loving ain't easy. So many traps to fall into, so many mistakes to make, so many ways to flub up. Even the nation's spy chief couldn't get away with it, couldn't keep a secret extramarital affair secret forever. If David Petraeus couldn't do it, well, how could anyone else convince themselves they could pull it off?

But, you see, they do try. Every day. Their venues may sometimes be cliched — motel rooms or the back seats of parked cars — but their methods are often less prosaic. In the hunt for bad loving, some people will do almost anything.

Whole new identities are created. Elaborate banking labyrinths appear and disappear. Passwords morph, then morph again . . . then morph again. It all sounds so plausible, so utterly doable, at the time. Then, wham, some private eye with a video camera shows up and it's all over (or, in Petraeus's case, some guy with FBI e-mail peeping powers).

"Somebody's going to make a mistake," says Bill Mitchell, a private investigator and self-styled "infidelity expert."

This digital world that we live in has made it only tougher on the unfaithful — not that they deserve a break, or anything, right? Each panting e-mail, each naughty text, each sneaky- rendezvous call is neatly logged with a digital signature. "Even when they delete everything, it's still on the hard drive," says Sandy Ain, a well-known divorce lawyer in Washington. "If computers are discovered during litigation or by an enterprising suspicious spouse, the information is readily available."

Makes a person think twice about e-v-e-r-y single w-o-r-d he says — or types. "Unless you're a Russian cyber criminal, anything online is potentially public," says Paul Saffo, a technology futurist, or forecaster. "There are things in my life I would not write in e-mail but would say on the phone, but I wouldn't leave on voice mail. There are conversations I'd not have on the phone, and those I'd only have in a field with no one around for a half-mile."

It's all about proportionality, he says. Online information is at risk, but "if you really worry about who can run up your tailpipe, before you know it you're wearing a tinfoil hat on your head."

But that's what cheating spouses do. They worry.

The disposable cellphone is a new favorite mode of assuaging all that fretting and concealing all that bad behavior. See a man talking on one of those, and you might be seeing a "big sign of a cheating spouse," says Jim Casteel, a private investigator in Birmingham, Ala., who has been chasing philandering spouses for more than two decades.

But the computer is the bigger tipoff, says Casteel; it's the focal point of deception and the vector for discovery. Frequently, the men and women he chases set up dummy e-mail accounts under phony names, thinking they'll avoid detection. But few can carry on without raising suspicions, and a suspicious spouse can turn into a resourceful one, he says. It's common now, he says, for wary spouses to install spyware on their computers to surreptitiously track every keystroke and glimpse each Web site that gets visited.

"For every action, they've got a counteraction," says Casteel.

Worst-case scenario for those spyware-installing spouses? That would be AshleyMadison.com, a website whose motto is "Life is short. Have an affair."

The site, which claims to get 1.8 million visitors per month, is a kind of electronic labyrinth of its own, designed, operated and maintained to keep cheating spouses safely inside and cuckolded spouses safely out. Servers are kept outside the United States for extra protection should, say, an FBI agent or divorce lawyer come knocking. "He could have used our site and called himself, 'Head of the CIA Guy,' and do whatever he needed to do to focus on being the top spy, and it would never have revealed his true name," says Noel Biderman, who runs the site.

Biderman says the future of infidelity-enabling technology is apps that allow people to sustain two personalities on the same device. "The next evolution is that most people will keep two devices, like two phones," Biderman says. "One for personal and one for real personal."

If technology is the problem, why not go back to the good old days? When people organized their illicit liaisons without accessing the World Wide Web.

"The old days of letter-writing and notes under the plants are bygone. People today are too impulsive. We are accustomed to instant gratification," Ain said.

Indeed, 2012 cheating requires cleverness. And the more sophisticated the cheat, the more elaborate the scheme.

Casteel, the Alabama private eye, once chased a man who'd set up a parallel life with his lover in a separate town. They owned a house together and had a child.

All the while, his wife was buying a cover story that only a fertile imagination could conceive. The cheating hubby explained his long absences by telling his wife that he was on a secret mission. No tracking his calls — our national security depends on it! Or so she thought. His employer, he said, was the CIA.

He lied.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform