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Ashley Madison hack in a nutshell

A Canadian dating website for cheating spouses was hacked – here's what you need to know

By Mihika Pai  July 22nd, 2015

About 37 million nightmares came true on July 20, when Ashley Madison, a Canadian dating website for cheating spouses, was hacked. The site, whose tag line is ‘Life is short. Have an affair’, operates in 48 countries, in 19 languages, and signs up close to 35,000 users on a daily basis. Users over 18 can sign up with a pseudonym and list details like sexual preferences for free. It’s only when they start chatting or exchanging photos with other users that the fees (and possibly the stakes) start to pile up. Since it was launched in 2001, Ashley Madison has been a safe space for adulterers looking for respite from their marriages without the uncertainty and fear of IRL courtship (dating is hard!).

The hackers (a group called the Impact Team – an inside job, if rumours are true) threatened to go live with intimate details and photos of all the website’s users unless it shut down its operations. They claim the company doesn’t permanently delete user profiles and personal information – including credit card details, real names and addresses, employee numbers and sexual fantasies – as it promises to for an extra fee of USD 20; the marriage-destroying continues to exist on their servers. Ironically, the hackers are threatening to reveal details of the very same users whose USD 20 worth of privacy they’re supposedly doing this for because, “they’re cheating dirtbags who deserve no such discretion”. Well, that’s nice.