Ashley Madison hack: Just three in every 10,000 female accounts on infidelity website are real

The website claims 5.5 million of its 37 million accounts are 'female'

Paul Gallagher
Friday 28 August 2015 08:28 BST
The Ashley Madison website claims around 1 in 7 of its users are female
The Ashley Madison website claims around 1 in 7 of its users are female (AFP)

Just three in every 10,000 Ashley Madison members are real women, it has been revealed, as the huge scale of fake female accounts on the infidelity website was exposed.

Despite the website claiming 5.5 million of its 37 million customer accounts are “female” there was “a good chance” just 12,000 users actually are according to an analysis of the leaked data by the Editor-in-Chief of technology website Gizmodo.

Annalee Newitz began her analysis by finding out that 10,000 accounts were created with the email, implying that they were test subscriptions, of which 9,000 belonged to women with the remainder categorised as male or no gender specified.

She then studied IP addresses, numerical ‘id cards’ for computers which reveal user location, and discovered the second most popular IP address, found in 80,805 profiles, was an address likely created on a ‘home’ computer at Ashley Madison. Almost 69,000 of the profiles created with that IP address were female - the remaining 12,000 were either male or had no sex specified.

Ms Newitz said the “huge disparity” strengthened the pattern she had already with the email addresses.

“Obviously fake accounts were overwhelmingly female, and numbered in the tens of thousands,” she said.

Further strange details included the fact that the most popular female last name in the database was “an extremely unusual one” that matched the name of a woman who worked at the company about 10 years ago. The unusual name had over 350 entries, which Ms Newitz said was a likely result of someone creating test accounts.

In 2013 a former Ashley Madison employee claimed she was asked to create hundreds of fake profiles of “alluring females” in order to attract male subscribers. Brazilian Doriana Silva claimed she had incurred Repetitive Strain Injury after being made to input as many as 1,000 fake female members, in a 2012 lawsuit against the cheating website.

The case was settled out of court, and Ashley Madison claimed that the woman never made any fake profiles.

A clause in the Ashley Madison terms of service that notes that “some” people are using the site purely “for entertainment” and that they are “not seeking in person meetings with anyone they meet on the Service, but consider their communications with users and Members to be for their amusement.”

Ms Newitz said: “The site stops short of saying these are fake people, but does admit that many profiles are for ‘amusement only’.”

Three more specific searches – looking at how many times women either checked their messages, used the chat function or replied to messages – finally revealed the huge scale of how many fake female profiles existed.

Ms Newitz found that fewer than 1,500 women on the site had ever checked messages, compared to the 20 million-plus men. “It was a serious anomaly,” she wrote.

Only 2,400 women ever used the chat tool, as opposed to the 11 million-plus men and only 9,700 of the women had ever replied to a message, compared to the 5.9 million men who would do the same.

Ms Newitz said: “This isn’t a debauched wonderland of men cheating on their wives. It isn’t even a sadscape of 31 million men competing to attract those 5.5 million women in the database. Instead, it’s like a science fictional future where every woman on Earth is dead, and some Dilbert-like engineer has replaced them with badly-designed robots.

“When you look at the evidence, it’s hard to deny that the overwhelming majority of men using Ashley Madison weren’t having affairs. They were paying for a fantasy.”

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