The Ashley Madison Website Hack Was One Year Ago

by Alex Gladu

Does the name "Ashley Madison" ring a bell? You know, the now-infamous dating website for cheating spouses. Last July, the controversial website suffered a massive data breach which outed all kinds of users by name, email address, and credit card. So what has Ashley Madison done in the year since the hack? Apparently, it's worked to rebuild its company. On Tuesday, Reuters reported that Ashley Madison's parent company, Toronto-based Avid Life Media, had hired two new executives, and was facing an investigation from the Federal Trade Commission. Avid Life's new CEO is Rob Segal, and its new president is James Millership. Both were hired in April, after former CEO Noel Biderman stepped down last August following the data breach. Their talk with Reuters was the first interview given by any executive related to Ashley Madison since the breach.

Segal and Millership apologized for last year's incident, but they gave no indication that the business was slowing down. The very fact that a pair of new top executives were hired — much less giving interviews — should signal that the company is fighting to make a comeback. Such a comeback could require the new executive team to jump through some hoops, as the company is currently under investigation by the FTC and being sued by numerous parties in the U.S. and Canada. As CNN Money reported, it's unclear exactly why the FTC has decided to investigate.

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Ashley Madison has also received further criticism in the past year. It's been alleged that the company used "fembots," or fake women, to communicate with at least some of its male members who believed they were communicating with real women. There's probably something to be said for a site that helps spouses be disloyal in their marriages and isn't all that forthcoming with its own members, but let's leave that to the investigators.

In addition to the FTC investigation, Ashley Madison is facing a slew of lawsuits from plaintiffs in the U.S. and Canada. In August, two Canadian law firms filed a class-action lawsuit for nearly $600 million, naming Avid Life Media as a defendant. A $5 million lawsuit was filed in Missouri last July by a woman who had attempted to have her private information removed from the site. Earlier this year, a district court judge in Missouri ruled that plaintiffs in class-action lawsuits against Ashley Madison must reveal their identities, which could deter some former members from suing.

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A year after Ashley Madison's data breach, the website seems to be poised for a comeback. Armed with a new leadership team, it'll have to overcome lawsuits in at least two countries and a federal investigation in the U.S. if it hopes to continue doing business. Whether the lawsuits — or the new executive team — will be successful remains to be seen.