Ashley Madison says it's adding new members despite hack

The extramarital-dating site boasts that hundreds of thousands of new members have joined despite a cyberattack that exposed customer data.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

New customers are still signing up at Ashley Madison, claims its parent company.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

People looking to have extramarital affairs apparently won't let a little thing like a data hack stand in their way.

On July 20, extramarital-dating site Ashley Madison revealed that it had been the victim of a hack, potentially exposing certain personal information of millions of its members. The hackers have since released alleged customer lists, credit card data, website code and email files. Though it's difficult to verify the legitimacy of the data and how much of it belongs to active users, you'd think people would steer clear of the site at this point.

But no, at least not according to Ashley Madison parent Avid Life Media.

In a statement Monday, Avid Life boasted that hundreds of thousands of new users have signed up for the service during the past week. Avid Life also chided media reports "predicting the imminent demise of Ashley Madison" as being "greatly exaggerated" and said it continues its daily operations as it deals with the theft of customer data by hackers.

Breaking into company and government websites and swiping data has become an increasing popular pastime, but the reasons for doing it vary. Some hackers do it for financial gain. Some do it for the sport of it. And some claim to do it for "hactivist" reasons. In the case of the Ashley Madison data theft, the hackers said they took off with the data because they objected to the site's policy of charging users to have their data completely wiped clean. Of course, assuming that any of the data publicly released is legitimate, the hackers have not only damaged the company but also its customers.

The number of actual users on the site remains a question mark. The hackers who posted the Ashley Madison data claimed that many of the user profiles were falsified, though not by them. However, security researcher Brian Krebs, who reported the hack, has confirmed that some of the information is accurate.

Despite or perhaps because of the damage to its reputation, Avid Life continues to tout its membership on Ashley Madison. In its latest statement, the company criticized a report published Thursday by Gizmodo that claimed a huge number of the female accounts were fake. Avid Life called that claim wrong and instead played up the number of active women on the site.

Among the hundreds of thousands of new customers over the past week, 87,596 were women, according to the company. In the last week, women sent more than 2.8 million messages on the service.

"Furthermore, in the first half of this year the ratio of male members who paid to communicate with women on our service versus the number of female members who actively used their account (female members are not required to pay to communicate with men on Ashley Madison) was 1.2 to 1," Avid Life said. "These numbers are the main reason that Ashley Madison is the number one service for people seeking discreet relationships."

The company further touted that it has customers in almost every ZIP code in the US and in more than 50 countries worldwide, and that its Apple iOS app is the 14th-highest-grossing app in the USA social networking category in the App Store. Avid Life also said that around 70 percent of its daily sales come from repeat customers.

"We think that shows happy customers on a consistent basis," Avid Life said.

Customers may be happy and signing up in droves. But Avid Life still has to deal with the aftermath of the attack and is stuck in damage control mode.

On Friday, the company announced that CEO Noel Biderman had stepped down. Avid Life has also put out a bounty on the heads of the cyberattackers, offering $500,000 Canadian (US$377,000) to anyone who can provide information that leads to the arrest of those involved. The company also said it is still "actively adjusting to the attack on our business and members' privacy by criminals" but will continue to provide access to its members.