In one of 2015's most sensational hacks, a group called Impact Team dumped the real names and credit card information associated with 39 million accounts from cheater dating site Ashley Madison. And yet, despite the public shaming of prominent men who paid to join the site and several lawsuits against the company, Ashley Madison claims that it has added 4 million members in the months since the hack.
But why would anyone join a cheater site knowing that they risk exposure? Is this a case of the Internet having a ridiculously short memory? Of horniness overcoming good sense? Or is it just another trick played by a company whose brand has become synonymous with using bots to plump up its membership numbers?
Company reps refuse to disclose how they came to the 4 million number, saying merely "we do not have any updates to share." What we know is that the Ashley Madison database and source code show that the company had created at least 70 thousand fake female profiles called "engagers" to chat up curious men who joined the site for free. Bots created by developers at Ashley Madison would use these fake profiles to send men messages and e-mails—which the men could only read if they signed up for a paid account. Apparently, the bots were so successful that they accounted for 59 percent of conversions to paid accounts (see the "engager vs. female" chart in this article).