Ashley Madison, a service that connects married persons looking to have an affair, was the victim of a widespread cyber attack that compromised the data of approximately 37.5 million users. The hackers, who refer to themselves as "The Impact Team," posted a sampling of the data stolen (since taken down) from Avid Life Media, the company that owns Ashley Madison as well as its other dating service site Established Men ("Connecting beautiful young woman to successful men"), and said they would post the data of all of the other users if Ashley Madison did not go offline.
The hack is believed to be an inside job. One of the The Impact Team's main grievances is the site's dishonest "full deletion" feature, where users pay 19 dollars to have their profile removed from the site. The hackers say that much of the data remains. If ALM does not comply with their wishes, the hackers have threatened to release names, credit card information, and "secret sexual fantasies."
ALM Chief Executive Noel Biderman confirmed the attack. "We're not denying this happened," he said. "Like us or not, this was a criminal act." Ashley Madison, whose slogan is "Life is short. Have an affair" has long been subject to controversy. ALM has since removed all posts related to the hack, and is working with forensics to determine the source of the hack. "It was not an employee," Biderman stated. "[but someone who] certainly has touched our technical services."
Ashley Madison launched in the UK five years ago. Since, then 1.2 million users signed up for its services, about 5 percent of the married population there. Earlier this spring, the company attempted to go public, but had difficulty appealing to investors.