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Ashley Madison Netflix Documentary: Were the Hackers Ever Caught? | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal


Everyone knows about Ashley Madison, the dating website where married people can find someone to cheat with. And almost everyone knows about the famous 2015 hacking incident, when someone called The Impact Team got into the database and exposed the names, personal information, and preferences of more than 30 million Ashley Madison users, destroying many lives in the process. 

But did you know how The Impact Team accessed that database, what the hackers ultimately cost users, and how it changed the company? Netflix is ensuring you do with its new three-part docuseries, Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal

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What is the Netflix Ashley Madison Documentary About?

Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal consists of three episodes. The first installment goes back to the early 2000s when Darren Morgenstern founded the site in Toronto after hearing that 30% of people on current dating sites were already married. The second episode tackles the company’s marketing campaign under married man Noel Biderman and how he grew the company into a global entity. The third installment goes deep into the hack and how it affected the company and the families of members who used the dating site.

When Was the Ashley Madison Hack?

In July 2015, The Impact Team hacked into Ashley Madison. As per the documentary, people coming into work that day turned on their computers and were informed they no longer had control of their system. They hired international experts to help and tried to keep it all quiet. Eventually though, The Impact Team leaked news of the hack and revealed information on more than 30 million users. 

Who is in the Ashley Madison Doc?

The documentary speaks with several former Ashley Madison employees, journalists who covered events at the time, and real-life people whose lives were affected by the hack. They include popular Christian vloggers Sam and Nia, who went viral for a pregnancy reveal video, and a woman named Christi Gibson, whose minister and professor husband, John, committed suicide after he learned the hackers leaked his name.

Elsewhere, the show employs leaked emails, news coverage of the time, and archived interviews to complete the story. 

What Are the Most Shocking Reveals in Netflix’s Ashley Madison Doc?

Several shocking reveals occur throughout the documentary, some of which came out during the hack nearly a decade ago. That leaked information made it clear that Ashley Madison was indeed a male-driven site and that most of its users were men. That data went against what the marketing team had been pushing, and people learned the site was using bots. Those bots would pose as women looking to chat with men, and men would pay to read those fake messages. 

Another shocking revelation is that Ashley Madison charged users to delete their data, but they didn’t actually provide the service these users were paying for. No data was ever deleted, which is why these hackers were able to expose so many people. Likewise, former employees say the site never invested in security, and despite promising complete anonymity, Ashley Madison was always vulnerable to a cyber-attack.

Perhaps the biggest reveal is that whoever hacked Ashley Madison was never caught. Before this, no one had ever heard of The Impact Team, and no one has heard of it since. Meanwhile, this hacker or hackers only ever demanded $500,000. That’s a low sum for a group of people to ask for, and as police explain in the series, when a group demands a ransom, someone eventually caves. No one here ever did. 

As a result, some speculate the hacker could have been one individual, and that individual may have been an employee of the site. 

Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal

Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal


Who Was Exposed Following the Ashley Madison Hack?

When hackers exposed the list of Ashley Madison users, it almost became a public witch hunt. Many notable names were on that list, including Josh Duggar, Real Housewives star Josh Taekman, Jionni LaValle (husband to Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi), and various politicians. Many of these people have denied having an account, and the documentary further explores their stories.

Does Ashley Madison Still Exist?

Ashley Madison still exists, although it has rebranded and remarketed itself. Instead of targeting married people, the site is now a platform for those interested in discreet relationships.

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What Does Ashley Madison Have to Say About the Doc?

Current Ashley Madison employees and executives are among those who didn’t participate in the docuseries. However, soon after Netflix announced the series, the company sent publicity pitches to various journalists, leaning into the series and embracing the “no press is bad press” concept.

In one pitch, the company claims it now boasts more than 85 million global members (more than double since 2015) and that the hack helped grow the site. It also claims that in recent years, women have grown tired of monogamy faster than men, and that society is much more accepting of non-monogamous relationships than it was back then. 

Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal is now streaming on Netflix.


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