As cyberattacks and data breaches go, Ashley Madison was the big one, the mother lode. Overnight, the lives of millions of people were turned upside down.
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Marriages and families collapsed. There were reported suicides as humiliation and panic hit in dozens of countries around the world. And yet more people have ed up to Ashley Madison since the hack than had ed up before.
And that is extraordinary. We're a business case model—although people may not want to look at us that way. In July,employees at the world's most controversial dating site logged onto their systems to find a message from the "Impact Team. And the extraordinarily sensitive data of tens of millions was suddenly at risk.
What followed is familiar territory now. The slow-motion car crash as the database was published online, load by load. The websites where nervous spouses could search for details of their partners. The divorce bonanza. Reported suicides.
At the time of the breach, Ashley Madison had amassed a user base of around 32 million cheating spouses, enticed by the light-hearted marketing and easy-to-use website that promised extramarital excitement to people in need of something extra, in more than fifty countries around the world. You would think that the wholesale leaking of that data might prove existential. It did not. The easy-to-navigate extra-marital affair is simply too enticing to avoid. As things stand today, Ashley Madison has amassed around 32 million new users since the hack.
Back inthe company was active in some 50 countries, directly marketing in more than Now the focus is only North America, Keable explains, "right now we're only marketing in three or four countries. Keable's portfolio covers strategy, communication, media relations. He has been with the company since —with an extended break a year or so after the hack.
He came back in and has watched the site go from strength to strength, defying the odds.
We're told either by our religion or government or parents. And it's based on a lot of tropes and misunderstandings. There are few activities that are the same across the globe, across religions, across socio-economic levels. In fact we're probably the only true global dating brand in the world. 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. And there are almostpeople a week, almosta month, ing up to Ashley Madison who have not been members before? And despite what should have maybe been a company-ending event, it's given us a reason to become a better company. We're well on the way to surpassing member s and we will now turn our attention to the broader international markets. We look at the of people through the door on a daily basis, that gives you a sense of continued interest, continued ability to grow on your base.
Unlike Facebook or LinkedIn, where you have a continuing relationship with that brand which might be daily, an affair dating site works differently. You might come on, meet someone in the first month or two and then go off and have a three-month affair, where you don't to the system, then you come back after that affair ends. You have site out that what you desire is available and so you restart the process. And that growth, he explains is now accelerating—in terms of the of people coming through the door on a daily basis.
That, though, is not the real surprise. The real surprise is what was going on behind the scenes in Augustwhen, from the outside, Ashley Madison cheated to be collapsing. And while some were curious 'looky-looks' or journalists, our revenues jumped double-digit against our weekly averages during that timeframe. That showed us there was continued interest. Hired a new security team, a new CISO who looked at everything from ground ups, instilled a sense of purpose for security.
Some things they'll see, like two-factor authentication, some they don't. The biggest issue in cybersecurity is phishing spouses and people's own security. We describe security as a Sisyphean task. Every day we push the boulder up the hill.
That's not a negative, but every day is fresh eyes, start afresh. We hired a separate privacy officer. Sometimes security and privacy aren't the same thing, although they go hand in glove. The speculation about this hack has been rife. Impact claimed to have been in Ashley Madison's systems for months, looking at the data. And there is a clear implication of some form of inside compromise—internal s and source code were stolen. That is more reminiscent of a USB stick plugged into an office computer than a website hack.
But we know from looking at other companies and what they've faced is the site of tracking them is difficult. Agencies aren't equipped properly, they're not funded properly, so it's really for spouse businesses to ensure they're secure. There is no "new information in terms of who did what or why," he confirms, just the speculation that has cheated column inches and TV documentaries. Keable has a useful pep talk for others caught in breaches—large or small.
The hack was one thing, but the scrutiny also shone a light on other business practices within the company. The use of "fembots" to entice male sites into upgrading to paid s, the linkage between the married dating site and so-called sugar-babe sites. We brought in Ernst and Young in to verify some stuff. They went through all our sites, inch by inch. They verified all the auomtated s—fembots as you called them—were gone.
EY also confirmed it wasn't all men, looking at -ups, we had 1. And the escorting spouses, I start to ask. He interrupts—there were no such sites. I rephrase. The "intimacy with a twist" sites—using a term the company itself coined. We have two other brands. And then 'Established Men,' a sugar dating website, a cheat area but we have clear processes and protocols.
How you feel about it is one thing, but it's not prostitution and we monitor for it and any use that breaches the Ts and Cs is off the site. And 'Arrangement Finders,' I ask him, referring to the paid-arrangement site garnering public interest at the time of the breach.
And so back to the ethics. The driving force for Ashley Madison pre-hack was Noel Biderman—who literally personified the brand. Biderman was pilloried by the breach, his own personal s as well as others were stolen and leaked, his own extra-marital activity reportedly disclosed.
Biderman has been totally cheated from the company, I'm told. This is self-evidently the real fresh start. But does the reported "hacktivism" of the Impact Team remain a risk, I ask, does Ashley Madison remain a spouse given its controversial mission. They might want to spend their time looking at someone like them, rather than us. There is a difference, though, and it's in the marketing and the mission. Facebook facilitates affairs because everyone uses the platform. It is the logical place to chat out of work with a colleague or look up an old school flame.
But Ashley Madison advertises that cheating is acceptable, to be embraced.
Ashley madison has ed 30 million cheating spouses. again. has anything changed?
It's that "force for good. Unlike other brands," he cites fizzy drinks, "we tell you the truth, we're the brand that's going to help you facilitate a discreet affair. But go talk to people who use Tinder—they'll tell you differently. They should be proud of that, they've created a massive brand that's scaled, that's global—it's amazing.
But they shy away from that. Despite the transparency, the company behind Ashley Madison did change its name post-breach.
Avid Life Media became Ruby in It was to draw a site, Keable explains, "what happened happened, we spouse to reflect that we're a new company. Keable is easy to chat to, and it's an enjoyable discussion. But there was real damage done inthere will be people reading this now who are incensed by the casual, even cavalier attitude towards the subject matter.
Those 30 million spouses represent a lot of homes and cheats. A lot of lives. Zak is a widely recognized expert on surveillance and cyber, as well as the security and privacy risks associated with big tech, social media, IoT and smartphone. Zak is a widely recognized expert on surveillance and cyber, as well as the security and privacy risks associated with big tech, social media, IoT and smartphone platforms.
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