A leak of millions of Ashley Madison user’s personal information did not stop husbands - or wives - from signing up for an affair online last week, if the adultery dating site's claims are to be believed.
The adultery website, whose tagline is “Life is short. Have an affair,” is owned by Avid Life Media, which is also responsible for Established Men, Swappernet (a swingers' site) and The Big and the Beautiful (a site for larger singles).
It previously failed to become a public company in Canada - where the website’s parent company, Avid Life Media, is based.
The company makes money by charging male users for credits to speak with women. Women do not have to pay for the service.
It promises a ‘delete-all’ service, should a user get cold feet. But a group of hackers, the self titled 'Impact Team', sought to prove this service did not exist. It leaked ove 37 million paying user’s personal data, site source code as well as internal communications within Avid Life Media.
How many women use Ashley Madison?
On initial investigation of the data Techworld could not find any examples of women using the site, as only paid members were listed in the initial data leak.
But Ashley Madison released a statement today attacking journalists that reported there were few women on the site. It insisted that it's user base was still growing.
“Despite having our business and customers attacked, we are growing. This past week alone, hundreds of thousands of new users signed up for the Ashley Madison platform – including 87,596 women.
"Some journalists have turned the focus of the criminal act against Ashley Madison inside out, attacking us instead of the hackers. Last week, a reporter who claimed to analyze the stolen data made incorrect assumptions about the meaning of fields contained in the leaked data. This reporter concluded that the number of active female members on Ashley Madison could be calculated based on those assumptions. That conclusion was wrong.”
However a second leak from the Impact Team included the website’s source code, which reveals interactions between users. In this code is evidence that Ashley Madison’s developers had created fake female profiles - or bots - to interact and entice men into paying for credits.
Questions over the legitimacy of Ashley Madison's user base will affect any chance of a flotation, so it is not surprising that the company have released a statement claiming that "last week alone, women sent more than 2.8 million messages within our platform".
Ashley Madison's technology stack
Prior to the leak, it appears that security leads at Avid Life Media feared misbehaving individuals could create accounts and crawl (the technique of scraping or fetching and gathering information) search results, linking users to their private lives through facial recognition, image metadata and location coordinates.
Ashley Madison's security experts, including Toronto-based Security Director Mark Steele and Chief Technology Officer Trevor Sykes, were also concerned that employees at New Relic – a data analysis company - and IT services provider OnX could leak the company's customer data.
Documents titled ‘Ashley Madison’s technology stack’. were included in the first data release. They revealed that IT staff had little faith in Ashley Madison's underlying framework. Describing “Pinf”, which is the proprietary framework used to develop the website, the document stated: “No one knows what the acronym PINF is meant to stand for. Much of the code is a decade old and most of it is nonsense. It tries to be an MVC framework, but it fails. It would be more accurate to describe it as a "view first" framework, but even in that context it doesn't quite make sense.”
While Ashley Madison is keen to promote discretion amongst its user base, the documented included details of the technology Avid Life Media use to apply face detection through a restful API on its Silex and an open-source proxy server NginX-based user photo server.