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Security

CEO of Ashley Madison parent steps down in wake of hacking scandal

Noel Biderman has left Avid Life Media as the company grapples with the fallout from a hack and the revelations of customers' personal information.

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Noel Biderman, seen here in September 2013, is out as CEO of Ashley Madison parent company Avid Life Media.


Bobby Yip/Reuters/Corbis

The hacking scandal at the adultery website Ashley Madison has claimed a new victim: the CEO of the site's parent company.

Avid Life Media announced Friday that Noel Biderman has stepped down as chief executive and left the Toronto-based company.

"This change is in the best interest of the company and allows us to continue to provide support to our members and dedicated employees," Avid Life Media said in a statement. "We are steadfast in our commitment to our customer base."

That customer base has been shell-shocked in recent weeks. In July, a group called the Impact Team revealed that it had stolen information from the site, including data both on the company itself and on more than 30 million Ashley Madison patrons, who sign up with the goal of having extramarital affairs -- and expecting confidentiality.

The cyberattackers threatened to release the embarrassing data if the website didn't shut down. Ashley Madison refused, and this month the hackers delivered on their threat. But the information they've released may not be entirely trustworthy, with some mixture of accounts that weren't genuine to start with and the potential for the hackers to have inserted their own disinformation.

The Ashley Madison incident is the latest in a string of high-profile and often messy breaches at a wide range of companies and government agencies in the last several years. A short version of that list includes the retailer Target, which eventually agreed to pay $10 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over the intrusion; the US government's Office of Personnel Management, whose director resigned after 22 million Social Security numbers were compromised; Sony Pictures Entertainment, with the spilling of gossipy Hollywood details as well as personal information; and the iCloud accounts of celebrities, which sent revealing images across the Internet.

Earlier this week, Avid Life Media put a bounty out for the cyberattackers, offering $500,000 Canadian (US$377,000) to anyone providing information leading to the arrest of those involved.

The company said in its statement Friday that 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.

Avid Life Media also runs dating sites called Established Men and CougarLife.

Biderman founded Ashley Madison in 2002, naming it after the two most popular names for baby girls that year, according to a 2011 Bloomberg Business story. That story quoted him as saying "Monogamy, in my opinion, is a failed experiment."

Correction, 1:03 p.m. PT: This story originally misidentified the hackers who infiltrated Ashley Madison's systems. The group that claimed responsibility is the Impact Team.