A Look Into Ashley Madison’s Hack

Ashley Madison is a website that was created as an online dating service which socially networks people who are in long term relationships that want to have affairs whilst keeping their identities a secret. Ashley Madison claims they have over 51,670,000 users from over 45 countries that had joined the website since 2002. Every 20 seconds someone joins their website. Considering there are 7 billion people in the world, these statistics are quite alarming. Some people who use websites like Ashley Madison are looking for sexual relationships or are trying to find a new way to build emotionally connected relationships but they do not want to leave their current relationship. The Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy claims that 50% of women and 60% of men in a marriage may cheat on their partner.

Ashley Madison was hacked on the 15th of July in 2015 by a group of people called “The Impact Team” who wanted their website taken down. They did not just hack the companies user accounts, they also gained access to company emails. Before the details were released publicly, some people received threats that if they did not give $300 worth of bitcoin to them, the data would be shared with their family members. The data released was 9.7 gigabytes in size. It included account details, names, home addresses, mobiles, photos, sexual interests and payment details of all Ashley Madison users. Although some of the information was falsified the user’s payment details displayed their real names. There were also email addresses used from government websites.

Ashley Madison released a statement on the hack which said:

“This event is not an act of hacktivism, it is an act of criminality. It is an illegal action against the individual members of AshleyMadison.com, as well as any freethinking people who choose to engage in fully lawful online activities. The criminal, or criminals, involved in this act have appointed themselves as the moral judge, juror, and executioner, seeing fit to impose a personal notion of virtue on all of society. We will not sit idly by and allow these thieves to force their personal ideology on citizens around the world.”

After the details were released countless newspaper articles were written to help people find out whether their partner had cheated. For example, Wired wrote “How to Check if You or a Loved One Were Exposed in the Ashley Madison Hack“. There were even companies like “Trustify” created dedicated to find out whether your spouse had cheated that used an email address search to find the details. They were used by both the cheaters and people who were looking for information. Danny Boice from Trustify stated:

“Trustify is in the business of finding the truth. We do this in an objective and un-biased way. We don’t intervene in how or why people want the truth or answers, we simply use our investigative pool to provide them.”


Current Ashley Madison Website Photo
Photo: Ashley Madison Website


In an effort to re-brand themselves Ashley Madison changed their company motto from:

“Ashley Madison – Life is short. Have an affair”


“Ashley Madison – Find your moment”

Ashley Madison made profit from men that would pay money to send messages for each new person they would talk to. Their live chat was also paid per amount of time a user would stay on it. The controversy with their payment scheme was that Annalee Newitz from Gizmodo claimed that there were 70,000 bots would interact with people and only 12,000 out of the 5,500,000 women were regular users. It is said that these statistics appear to have no factual evidence. However, there is a terms of service clause that says that there are non human accounts made on the website that are used purely for amusement purposes only. After the hack, Ashley Madison removed all of their bots. Although the people’s intentions were to cheat they were actually suckered out into spending their money.

Another way Ashley Madison had made money from people who used their website was to offer them a $19 fee to permanently delete their profile and all private information that was collected through the use of the website. Even if someone has set up a fake account under your name, you still had to pay the $19 fee. The hack had shown all of the users “permanently deleted” accounts were all recalled.

Ashley Madison was original ran by a parent company named “Avid Life” which was rebranded as “Ruby Life Corp”. They ran a network of dating websites that appeared to be in competition with each other but they were made to take on all areas of dating real estate online. They had developed many websites for specific kinks, ages, weight, race and genders. Their most famous website’s include Cougar Life, Established Men and Arrangement Finders. They had spent a lot of time on building up sugar daddy dating websites. Netflix released a documentary named “Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies and Cyber Attacks” detailing the events of the hack.


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