Ashley Madison (website)

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Ashley Madison
Ashmad logo.png
User's homepage [ ]
Type Online dating service
Launch Date January, 2002
Status Active
Product Line Ashley Madison
Platform Website
iOS App

Ashley Madison is an online dating service founded by Darren Morgenstern in 2002. The service has been marketed directly to individuals seeking an affair and has openly committed to its specific audience by adopting the slogan "Life is short. Have an affair".

Ashley Madison has recently received attention due to a data breach that happened in 2015, in which a group of hackers reportedly stole all of its customers' information. The hackers threatened to release this information online, which included customer names, emails, addresses, sexual fantasies/preferences, credit card information, and pictures, if the Ashley Madison company did not permanently shut down its website. Ashley Madison, calling the hackers' bluff, saw the first set of customer information leak a week after their demand [1]. A month later, with Ashley Madison still up and running, the rest of the website's customers unwillingly watched their information get leaked to websites like and popular data breach checker[2]

About a month after the data breach, Noel Biderman, CEO of the Ashley Madison parent company (Avid Life Media Inc.), stepped down.[3]

Today, Ashley Madison is still up and running under the same slogan of "Life is short. Have an affair". In an interview from 2019, Chief Strategy Officer, Paul Keable, claimed that Ashley Madison continues to create affairs at a rate of up to one million per month.[4]


Noel Biderman, posing as the Ashley Madison logo

Noel Biderman

Ashley Madison was founded in 2002 by former sports agent and attorney, Noel Biderman .[5] Biderman got the idea for Ashley Madison in 2001 while dealing with some of his clients whom he knew were cheating on their spouses. Biderman claims to have wanted to create a site that would appeal to both unfaithful men and women. In 2007, Noel Biderman was promoted to CEO of both Ashley Madison and Avid Life Media. Following the data breach in 2015, Biderman stepped down as CEO.

Avid Life Media Inc.

Parent company, Avid Life Media Inc, was founded in 2007. Avid Life Media owns various other online dating websites such as "CougarLife" and "EstablishedMen" while also owning popular web-domain registry, "GoDaddy".[6] In 2016, Avid Life Media announced that it would be rebranding as "ruby Corp".[7]


Ashley Madison is a membership based website based in Canada. With more than 60 million users, the majority of Ashley Madison members are from the United States, Brazil, and Canada (in that order).[8]

Ashley Madison users by country

Country Bans

Although Ashley Madison is available in 53 countries, there have been countries who have deliberately chosen not to allow the dating service to be available to their citizens. With plans to launch in Singapore, the Singapore Media Development Authority strictly declined the online dating service to be allowed in the country, stating that, " it promotes adultery" and thus, goes against the country's values.[9] Thailand has also made sure that Ashley Madison would not be available to the citizens within the country on account of opposing principles. The Philippines sought to block Ashley Madison for "facilitating adultery", however, it grew relatively popular among citizens and thus, no proper ban was or has been established in Thailand.

Membership Model

Unlike other popular online dating websites, Ashley Madison is based on credits rather than subscriptions.[10] If a user would like to initiate a conversation, then the male must pay 8 credits in order to connect with the other (female) user. Once the conversation is initiated through credits, all chatting and follow-up messages between the users are free. Thus, the website is free for female users; a strategy enforced by Ashley Madison for the purpose of encouraging more female users.

Ashley Madison provides a feature that would allow a user to delete their account for a fee of $19.[11] Though you can "hide" your account for free, deleting your profile claims to ensure that the user profiles, messages sent/received, photos, etc. would all be removed. However, the Ashley Madison data breach in 2015 showed that although users paid the $19 fee to delete their profile, all of the information was still fully recoverable and therefore leaked along with the rest of the Ashley Madison members.

Data breach

In July 2015, a group of hackers broke into the Ashley Madison database and stole all of its users' information. The hackers then demanded that Ashley Madison shut down all of its operations, else they would leak this information. In August 2015, the hackers leaked approximately 25 gigabytes worth of Ashley Madison data.


The group of hackers identified collectively as "The Impact Team". At the time of the attack, the hackers left a message with their demands on all Ashley Madison staffers PCs while also leaving the popular AC/DC song "Thunderstruck" to play in the background.[12]

Though none of the group has been properly identified, an investigative computer security journalist named Brian Krebs believes he has linked the attack to a Twitter user named Deuszu. Brian Krebs discovered that, a day before the actual attacks, Deuszu tweeted a copy of the Impact Team's statement aimed for Ashley Madison.[13] Other tweets from Deuszu brag about hacking into various cameras, routers, printers, and websites. Though it is completely possible that this user is linked to the Ashley Madison data breach, the user has still yet to be properly identified and/or located.


At the time of the initial attack, the parent company of Ashley Madison, Avid Life Media, released a statement condemning the hackers, stating "This event is not an act of hacktivism, it is an act of criminality."[14]When the second data leak occurred and still no information on the hackers arose, Avid Life offered a $500,000 dollar reward for potential information regarding the attack. [15]In August 2015 CEO of Avid Life Media, Noel Biderman resigns with a statement from Avid Life Media claiming the resignation to be within the best interest of the company.

Following the data dumps, Toronto police reported that two suicides were linked to the attack as their identities were amongst those leaked from Ashley Madison.[16]

Jeff Ashton pictured during the Casey Anthony trial

High profile users

From the television show "19 Kids and Counting", Josh Duggar is amongst one of the more popular names found on Ashley Madison.[17] It was revealed that Duggar spent a total of $986.76 on the online dating site for two separate subscriptions between 2013 and 2015. In response to being outed, Duggar released a statement saying, "I am so ashamed of the double life that I have been living and am grieved for the hurt, pain and disgrace my sin has caused my wife and family, and most of all Jesus and all those who profess faith in Him."

Florida State attorney Jeff Ashton, prosecutor for the infamous Casey Anthony murder trial, found his name in the news again as the world learned of his activity on Ashley Madison. [18]Jeff Ashton confessed to owning the account and released a statement reading, “I hope the public will judge me on my 35 years of service, and not a bad mistake”.

Jason Doré is one of many politicians who found themselves exposed as Ashley Madison members. [19]As a Louisiana GOP official, Jason Doré claims that he did not use his membership for the purpose of an affair, rather, he claims that the account was dedicated to researching his political opponents. Whether or not that is true is unknown.

Also amongst the list of users was approximately 10,000 US Military email addresses and 100s of US government email addresses.[20]

Controversy and ethical implications

Target audience

Ashley Madison has been subject to wide-spread controversy due to its services being targeted specifically to those who are seeking out affairs.

In an interview, Chief Strategy Officer Paul Keable claims that Ashley Madison is a force for good rather than a trope for infidelity.[21] In an interview Keable claims , "A lot of members are happy with their husbands and wives in general. But there's something missing from an intimacy standpoint that they're unwilling to live without. They're told live without it or get a divorce—we offer a third path".

Paul Keable maintains that Ashley Madison has gained approximately 32 million new users since the hack, a fact he uses to prove the website's legitimacy.[22]

Fake female accounts

At the time of the database attacks, there was approximately 5.5 million female accounts compared to the 31 million that belonged to males.

In a statement from The Impact Team, they claimed "... the site is a scam with thousands of fake female profiles. See ashley madison fake profile lawsuit; 90-95% of actual users are male. Chances are your man signed up on the world's biggest affair site, but never had one. He just tried to." [23]

A former employee of Ashley Madison sued the company for "repetitive stress injury" as she claims that she was tasked with creating hundreds of fake female profiles designed to attract the male-dominated website. [24]An analysis of IP-addresses and e-mails associated with different accounts showed patterns that would suggest the vast majority of female accounts on Ashley Madison were created from the same network. To further support the theory that there are fake female accounts, there are about 1,500 female accounts who have checked the messages in their accounts at least once (thus, making them "real" accounts). In comparison, there are approximately 20 million male users who have checked their messages at least once.

Recently, Ashley Madison has acknowledged that the majority of its female users are actually bots and claims to make an effort to limit them. Whether or not the employees at Ashley Madison are the ones created these accounts, and if they still do, is unknown.[25]


Although Ashley Madison promised customers that paying a $19 fee would erase all user data from the site, The Impact Team proved that to be false. Rather than completely erasing these users' information, the data was retained on the Ashley Madison Servers, thus, these users were left susceptible to potential hacks.[26]

The Impact Team claims that using the $19 "Full Delete" option netted Ashley Madison approximately 1.7 million dollars in revenue in the year 2014.[27]


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  2. Caitlyn Dewey. August 19, 2018. Retrieved from
  3. Sam Thielman. August 28, 2018. Retrieved from
  4. Zak Doffman. August 23, 2019. Retrieved from
  5. Zak Doffman. August 23, 2019. Retrieved from
  6. Zak Doffman. August 23, 2019. Retrieved from
  7. Avid Life. June 12, 2016. Retrieved from
  8. Daniel Schwartz. August 29, 2015. Retrieved from
  9. Walter Sim. November 8, 2013. Retrieved from
  10. Molly Mulshine. September 29, 2015. Retrieved from
  11. Alex Hern. July 21, 2015. Retrieved from
  12. Brian Krebs. August 26, 2015. Retrieved from
  13. Brian Krebs. August 26, 2015. Retrieved from
  14. Samuel Gibbs. August, 2015. Retrieved from
  15. Sarah Perez. August 24, 2015. Retrieved from
  16. Sam Thielman. August 24, 2015. Retrieved from
  17. Tyler McCarthy. August 25, 2015. Retrieved from
  18. Tyler McCarthy. August 25, 2015. Retrieved from
  19. Tyler McCarthy. August 25, 2015. Retrieved from
  20. Samuel Gibbs. August, 2015. Retrieved from
  21. Zak Doffman. August 23, 2019. Retrieved from
  22. Zak Doffman. August 23, 2019. Retrieved from
  23. Kim Zetter. August 18, 2015. Retrieved from
  24. Rose Buchanan. August 22, 2015. Retrieved from
  25. Jose Pagilery. July 25, 2016. Retrieved from
  26. Kim Zetter. August 18, 2015. Retrieved from
  27. Lauren Barbato. August 19, 2015. Retrieved from