Ashley Madison Hack: Everything to know including Timeline and Security Developments

Affair dating is frowned upon by many, seen as a no-go area, so there was significant turmoil when Ashley Madison, a top site for such dating, fell victim to a hacking of its database. The hacking incident became highly notorious, reached many, and stirred up controversy. 

ashley madison hack discreet

This situation led to widespread media attention and pressure on law enforcement to deliver results as the extent of the hack was revealed, compromising the personal details of millions, including names, email addresses, postal codes, and GPS information.

What Happened:

  • Hackers stole data from affair dating site Ashley Madison in 2015

  • Ashley Madison has placed a bounty on the attackers

  • Personal information about the user base was threatened to be released

  • Some sensitive user information was exposed by hackers

  • Comprehensive data security program was placed because of the data breach

Is Ashley Madison still on top of the discreet affair dating game? Get all the updates here! We'll provide you with a one-stop-shop guide on the infamous Ashley Madison hacking in 2015.

Ashley Madison Hack Timeline

The Ashley Madison hackers claimed two reasons for exposing the 32 million site members' personal information like email addresses and account details. First, they claim to be against Ashley Madison's practice of arranging affairs between married individuals. Second, they claim that Ashley Madison's business practices are considered unethical.

Despite their claim to be solely against Ashley Madison's core mission, the site members affected by the leak were the ones to take the heaviest blow.

Divorce attorneys reportedly had a field day when the news broke out. One of the biggest news were the two unconfirmed suicides that had been linked to the data breach as reported by the Toronto police. There were also reports of hate crimes connected to the hack.

In retrospect, the hackers perpetrated sextortion against millions of Ashley Madison members. Ashley Madison was pressured to shut down by holding the members hostage.

Timeline of Events

  • In July 2015, hackers calling themselves "Impact Team" gave a 30-day window to Avid Life Media to shut down Ashley Madison and its sister site Established Men.
  • After the 30-day window has expired, Impact Team dumped 10GB worth of user email addresses. A lot of people scrambled to verify and analyse the data, including media outlets and researchers.
  • Search websites have appeared to let people find specific email addresses that have been leaked. You can use these sites to search the hacked list by name or email address. It included a list of famous people who were put in hot water for being exposed as a member of the site.
  • Ashley Madison's parent company Avid Life Media has even placed a bounty on its attackers' heads—hundreds of thousands of dollars—to find out whodunnit.
  • The authorities have yet to find the cybercriminals, although traces of their identity were found out including IP addresses related to the hackers.

What Now: How safe is Ashley Madison today?

There was a loss of trust in the website after the controversial hacking incident. Some of the affected members were reported traumatised and sought help from legal parties.

To regain the confidence of its members, the site underwent a series of measures, including doing a rebranding of their image.

The fact that they did not try to mask or sanitise the incident off their image is commendable. Here are some of the measures that Ashley Madison had put in security features for their updated platform:

  • Updated Security Program

Ashley Madison settled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to implement a comprehensive data security program involving a third-party company that will do the assessments. The security program should prevent similar incidents from happening.

  • Two-Factor Authentication Feature

The site also added another layer of security on the user sign-in process. The two-factor authentication feature was added beyond the username and password. With this protection, the site will be able to tell whether it's really the users who are trying to log into the account. Members are now required to enter a piece of information or answer a security question so that hackers may not be able to bypass easily the sign in gates.

  • Bug Bounty Program

Website vulnerabilities do not only happen with Ashley Madison. In fact, this is a problem that most websites face and try to improve on. With this, Ashley Madison implemented its own bug bounty program to help locate these problem areas even before hackers can exploit them. People who can help point out these vulnerabilities are compensated by Ashley Madison. Bug bounty programs are used by huge digital companies like Facebook, Google, and Reddit to name a few, and they have been effective in boosting security.

  • Following strict Cybersecurity Standards

Ashley Madison is now aligned with the NIST cybersecurity standards. the NIST implements a cybersecurity framework in response to a US presidential executive order which called for a standardised security framework for critical infrastructure in the United States. In 2017, Ashley Madison also achieved the "Privacy by Design Certification" from Ryerson University.

Top Tips to Stay Safe at Affair Dating

In any affair, your own survival is crucial, and if you happen to hook up with a married person, you should follow strict security measures as well outside that of the dating site you are in. Here are a few tips on how you can ensure to have a peaceful and more fun affair dating experience:

  • Always clear your browser history, or better yet, go incognito
  • Have a separate phone if you can for all your "dirty transactions"
  • Do not use your personal email address when signing up to an affair dating site
  • Check your credit card statement: is the site discreet when it comes to billing?
  • Take care of your heart and remember the golden rule: they will not leave their spouse for you

Conclusion: Is Ashley Madison still worth it?

Despite these security improvements, regaining the people's confidence has become an uphill battle because of the much-publicised hacking. But people still came back to Ashley Madison and it actually bounced back on top of the affair dating game just a few years after the controversy.

At the time of the data hacking in 2015, Ashley Madison had a user population of around 32 million, hooked on the easy-to-use platform that's satisfying their extramarital affair needs.

You would think that after the hack, this number would dwindle, but the platform just proved to be too enticing to avoid. Before the events of 2015, some 30,000 people join the site on a daily basis. Only a few years since the hack, the site is back to around 22,000 new sign-ups per day.

People still choose to come back to Ashley Madison because of the very nature of affair dating itself. 

Unlike traditional dating where you try to get to know a stranger and build a connection with them by doing activities, affair dating has that unique kind of honesty to it. Consciously meeting someone at an affair dating site makes you see their flaws right off the bat. You show your true self right away unlike traditional dating that requires a few more dates to warm up.

In addition, Ashley Madison is one of the well-established platform not only in this category but online dating in general. People come for this honesty and the services they provide. With the improved cybersecurity and more transparent measures that they implement, people eventually came back and new members chose to see beyond the hacking incident in 2015.

With this, Ashley Madison proves to still be one of the biggest players and most-trusted affair dating service provider online. For discreet affair dating, you should try Ashley Madison now! Author Chris Pleines
Chris Pleines
Founder of Datingscout and Author of the book "Online Dating for Dummies"
Chris founded Datingscout 15 years ago, and today he is one of the leading Online Dating Experts. He is the author of the book "Online Dating for Dummies" and the author of the Internet's largest online dating study analyzing 20 Million Profile Pictures with artificial intelligence. Chris Pleines holds a master degree in media science and appeared in numerous television interviews and publications to give expert advice as well as tips about online dating.
Test winner for free