"We are the Impact Team. We have taken over all systems in your entire office. Ashley Madison must shut down immediately. We will release all customer records, sexual fantasies, nude pictures and employee emails"
, came the shocking first warning from the hackers. When Avid Life Media refused to close the sites, as they promised, Impact Team made millions of users personal details freely available on the shadowy Dark Web.
After the enormous data breach, Ashley Madison's team worked round the clock to find those responsible and bring them to justice, to no avail. Ashley Madison was a truly 21st Century phenomenon. Boasting 26 million members in 2014, the site was an online platform for infidelity. "It's a platform that helps people stay married. It's helped millions of people find contentment, passion, and happiness"
, claimed founder Noel Biderman, the self-styled 'King of Infidelity'.
Biderman was a master of promotion, generating controversial and creative marketing campaigns. Just a week after Tiger Woods' affairs were exposed Biderman offered him $5 million to be the face of Ashley Madison, but Woods refused. Journalist Gina Smith believes "the peculiar genius of their leadership was to be able to take anything, even negative news, and turn it into a promotional opportunity"
. Through Impact Team's data leak evidence has also emerged that Ashley Madison was actively cooking the books in a bid to make it on to the stock market, even duping financial publication Forbes into writing them up as an investment opportunity.
But the party couldn't last for ever. Not only was the leak a disaster for its members, but also revealed the site's use of 'fembots'. "These were algorithms that enabled Ashley Madison to contact gullible men pretending to be available women and make them part with their money"
, explains data analyst Jeremy Bullock.
But fooling customers was only the tip of the iceberg. As shocking revelation followed shocking revelation it became apparent that Biderman's empire was so much more than Ashley Madison. There were dozens of satellite sites catering to any desire or festish imaginable, as well as Arrangement Finders, a site blatantly arranging escorting services, who marketed themselves to young female students with the ad campaign, 'Need a Summer Job?'.
Despite exposing the personal details of millions of people, the identities and motivations of the Impact Team remain shrouded in mystery. This compelling doc goes to the heart of the case to explore one of the most explosive hacks in corporate history.