CEO out at Ashley Madison parent firm after massive hack

Breach fallout claims chief executive Noel Biderman a week after hackers published huge trove of his emails

ashley madison
Credit: REUTERS/Chris Wattie

The CEO of embattled Avid Life Media, the firm that operates the infidelity website AshleyMadison.com, stepped down today, according to the Canadian company.

"Effective today, Noel Biderman, in mutual agreement with the company, is stepping down as Chief Executive Officer of Avid Life Media Inc., and is no longer with the company," a statement by the company said Friday.

Ashley Madison, which admitted a massive data breach last week, is a website that caters to people seeking partners for extramarital affairs.

"This change is in the best interest of the company and allows us to continue to provide support to our members and dedicated employees," added Avid Life Media's statement on Biderman's departure.

Although the Ottawa-based company cited a "mutual agreement" between it and Biderman, the fact that he had already left the firm hinted at a more one-sided decision. Another signal of the sudden nature of his departure was that privately-held Avid Life Media did not immediately appoint a successor.

"Until the appointment of a new CEO, the company will be led by the existing senior management team," the firm said.

Last month, hackers identifying themselves as "Impact Team" posted a sample of the data stolen from Avid Life's network and demanded that the company shutter AshleyMadison.com as well as EstablishedMen.com, a sibling site. When that did not happen, Impact Team publicly posted gigabytes of data, including Ashley Madison customer names, email addresses and some credit card information. More disclosures soon followed, including a trove of Biderman's emails.

Researchers who examined the dumps claimed there was evidence that Avid Life Media collected fees from customers who had asked that all their information be deleted, but failed to scrub the pertinent data from its files. Others who analyzed usage patterns in the customer data argued that Avid Media had created large numbers of fake female users to mask the fact that very few women visited the site.

Multiple class-action lawsuits targeting Avid Life Media have been filed in the U.S. and Canada alleging fraud, failure to notify users of the breach and feeble security practices.

Earlier this week, Avid Life Media offered a $500,000 (Canadian; $337,360 U.S.) reward to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of the hackers. A joint U.S.-Canadian law enforcement task force, dubbed "Project Unicorn," which includes the Toronto Police Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the U.S.'s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), has been set up to investigate the breach.

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