Who hacked Ashley Madison? | The data leak featured in Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal

Who hacked Ashley Madison?

In July 2015, Ashley Madison, a commercial website that specialized in enabling extramarital affairs, was the target of a cyber attack.

The hacker(s) threatened to release users’ names and personal identifying information if the owners of Ashley Madison didn’t shut the sight down. To evidence the seriousness of this threat, the person(s) responsible leaked sensitive information related to some of the site’s users. 

When Avid Life Media, the parent company of Ashley Madison, failed to heed these warnings, the hacker(s) lived up to their word and released the data of 36 million users of the site, including their names, phone numbers, addresses, credit card numbers, and information about their sexual preferences.

The fallout of this was huge. Secrets were exposed, marriages fell apart, and at least two people may have committed suicide because of the breach. 

The story about this internet leak is explored in the new Netflix documentary, Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal. The official synopsis reads:

“When Ashley Madison, a dating site for people seeking adulterous affairs, is hacked, millions of users’ intimate data is exposed, wrecking marriages and destroying lives. This three-episode documentary series from Minnow Films and director Toby Paton explores the creation of the website during the dot com boom, the people who used the site to explore a part of their love lives they felt was missing, and the hack that made it all come crashing down.”

Surprisingly, Ashley Madison is still online, though you might want to think twice before putting your personal details on there.

You would be right to question why the site is still running, considering the people behind it failed to protect the anonymity of its users. 

You might also ask the question: Who hacked Ashley Madison?

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t as straightforward as it seems.

Who hacked Ashley Madison?

The people behind the internet leak called themselves “The Impact Team.” A reward of $500,000 was offered for information that could lead to their arrest, but to this date, no arrests have been made. 

When Avid Life Media failed to take down Ashley Madison, “The Impact Team” left this message:

“We have explained the fraud, deceit, and stupidity, of ALM and their members. Now everyone gets to see their data.”

They added:

“Find someone you know in here. Keep in mind the site is a scam with thousands of fake female profiles… Find yourself in here? It was ALM that failed you and lied to you. Prosecute them and claim damages. Then move on with your life. Learn your lesson and make amends. Embarrassing now, but you’ll get over it.” (source)

Whether or not the site’s users could move on with their lives is something only the targeted individuals can answer. But we’re sure they’re still wondering who was behind the hack that had such a huge impact on their lives. 

So, who did hack Ashley Madison?

In 2015, Ashley Madison’s CEO Noel Biderman claimed the hacker was an insider within his company who wanted revenge. He said:

“I’ve got their profile right in front of me, all their work credentials. It was definitely a person here that was not an employee but certainly had touched our technical services.” (source)

It’s believed that the person Biderman had in mind was a former employee named William Brewster Harrison, a self-proclaimed expert in search engine optimization (SEO). However, Harrison died by suicide before the hack happened, so this ruled his name out of the investigation.

Other possible culprits included somebody with the Twitter name of Thadeus Zu who posted a link to the same cache of data that had been shared with security researcher Brian Krebs (the person who reported the hack) by “The Impact Team.” In the end, doubt was cast on his involvement, though Krebs believed Zu may have known who the hacker was. 

Another suspect was a 32-year-old man named Jordan Evan Bloom, a former Ashley Madison employee who owned a site called LeakedSource.com. In 2019, he was convicted of selling hacked internet information to anybody willing to pay a fee. (source)

Bloom denied involvement in the Ashley Madison leak so was never officially charged with that particular crime.

To this date, the Ashley Madison leak remains a mystery. Somebody somewhere knows something but until a whistleblower leaks that info, the truth behind the hacking will remain unknown. 


Read More: Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal review

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