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Definition: Ashley Madison


An online dating service for people who are married or otherwise committed but are looking for additional romance. One of the most controversial sites on the Web, Canada-based Ashley Madison debuted in 2001, and more than 30 million people have signed up worldwide. Members pay for the time they communicate with other members.

In July 2015, customer data was stolen with threats to make it public if Ashley Madison and a companion site were not shut down. That did not happen and within a month, all the hacked data were made available online for searching including accounts that were previously closed. Cyber criminals leveraged that public data by emailing thousands of people on the list threatening that their Ashley Madison accounts were going to be shared with everyone on their own email list unless payment in bitcoin was made within a week or so. Anybody can copy data from the list and scare people, but for the most part, attackers have no access to members' personal email addresses.