August 26th, 2015
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Those millions of Ashley Madison men were paying to hook up with women who appeared to have created profiles and then simply disappeared. Were they cobbled together by bots and bored admins, or just user debris? Whatever the answer, the more I examined those 5.5 million female profiles, the more obvious it became that none of them had ever talked to men on the site, or even used the site at all after creating a profile. Actually, scratch that. As I’ll explain below, there’s a good chance that about 12,000 of the profiles out of millions belonged to actual, real women who were active users of Ashley Madison.
…Then, three data fields changed everything. The first field, called mail_last_time, contained a timestamp indicating the last time a member checked the messages in their Ashley Madison inbox. If a person never checked their inbox, the field was blank. But even if they’d checked their messages only once, the field contained a date and time. About two-thirds of the men, or 20.2 million of them, had checked the messages in their accounts at least once. But only 1,492 women had ever checked their messages. It was a serious anomaly.
…Both the Impact Team and disgruntled users of Ashley Madison have called the site fraudulent, mostly because the company charged men to shut down their accounts — and then actually kept their data. I found ample evidence of this kind of fraud in the database. There were 173,838 men’s accounts with the email address listed as
, and 12,108 women’s accounts. All other data in those accounts had been retained.
It’s worth noting that those 12,108
women’s accounts may represent the only true number we’ve got for women who used the site. After all, paying to delete an account is a sure sign of activity, though of course it’s evidence of disengagement rather than the amorous engagement that Ashley Madison promised.