The True Story Behind Netflix's Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies And Scandal – And What Happened Next

Netflix's new Ashley Madison documentary has been a hit since it began streaming earlier this month
Netflix's new Ashley Madison documentary has been a hit since it began streaming earlier this month Netflix

If you were left gasping in shock at the revelations in Netflix’s hit documentary Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal, it’s fair to say you may well have come away with as many questions as you have answers.

Back in 2015, the world was rocked by the data breach of Ashley Madison – a dating site for married people looking to have affairs – which exposed millions of users and their personal details.

The new three-part Netflix documentary hears from former employees, affected couples and journalists who found themselves at the centre of the controversy. here’s everything you need to know about the true story behind the doc…

What actually happened in the Ashley Madison hack?

Ashley Madison was hacked in 2015, with its users data then being posted online
Ashley Madison was hacked in 2015, with its users data then being posted online NurPhoto via Getty Images

Ashley Madison was hacked in 2015 by an anonymous party which called itself the The Impact Team.

They demanded that the company cease operations within 30 days, or else it would leak the data. 

According to the Impact Group, they took issue with the website’s misleading “full delete” feature, which advertised the option to completely scrub personal information from the website for a fee of $19 – which we discover in the documentary was not honoured.

“Full Delete netted [parent company Avid Life Media] $1.7mm in revenue in 2014. It’s also a complete lie,” the group said in a statement shared by security blogger Brian Krebs.

“Users almost always pay with credit card; their purchase details are not removed as promised, and include real name and address, which is of course the most important information the users want removed.”

But it seemed the Impact Group also disagreed with the site on a moral level, adding: “Too bad for those men, they’re cheating dirtbags and deserve no such discretion.”
Among the data included were names, addresses, sexual fantasies listed on users’ profiles, amounts spent on the site and credit card information.

Who was exposed in the data leak?

Along with millions of everyday users, a number of high-profile names came up in the leak. 

Netflix’s documentary follows the story of Christian family vloggers Sam and Nia Rader, a married couple who had to deal with the fall-out from the scandal in the public eye after Sam was revealed to have once had an account. 

YouTubers Sam and Nia were interviewed for Netflix's Ashley Madison documentary
YouTubers Sam and Nia were interviewed for Netflix's Ashley Madison documentary Netflix

As we see in the documentary, Sam claimed to have used the website during a lull in his and Nia’s relationship before they garnered an online following, but his name was exposed after the pair built up a huge audience on their YouTube channel.

He also admitted in the documentary to having been unfaithful in the past despite initially publicly claiming otherwise.

There were also many other high-profile relationships affected by the scandal that were not featured in the documentary.

Jeff Ashton, a Florida state attorney, said he was merely “curious” about the site after being named in the leak, but denied meeting anyone on it or ever having an affair. He also apologised for the “great amount of stress and heartache” his affiliation with the site caused his wife and children.

19 Kids and Counting star Josh Duggar was also named in the hack, and while he did not directly address the Ashley Madison controversy, he said he’d been “the biggest hypocrite ever” for “espousing faith and family values” while viewing pornography and being unfaithful to his wife. He is now currently serving a 12 year prison sentence for possession of child pornography, after being found guilty in 2021.

Jason Doré, the executive director of the Republican Party of Louisiana at the time, was also named in the leak. However, he told the New Orleans Times-Picayune (per Politico) that he was only using Ashley Madison for “opposition research”. He later went on to be hired by the Trump administration in 2017.

It’s also worth noting that the Ashley Madison sign-up process did not require email verification, meaning it’s possible that many customers named in the leak might not have actually signed up themselves.

Who was actually responsible for the Ashley Madison hack?

A group which called itself The Impact Team claimed responsibility for the hack – but to this day we still don’t know the identity of those behind it

Even cyber experts brought in by Ashley Madison, who are interviewed in the doc, were unsuccessful in finding any concrete evidence pointing to who the culprit or culprits might be.

The documentary also addresses the (still unverifiable) theory that it could have even been carried out by a single person as part of an inside job. 

Back in 2015, CEO of Avid Life Media Noel Biderman claimed to security bloggerBrian Krebs: “It was definitely a person here that was not an employee but certainly had touched our technical services.”

Hackers known as 'The Impact Group' took credit for the Ashley Madison data breach
Hackers known as 'The Impact Group' took credit for the Ashley Madison data breach Netflix

AreSam and Nia Rader still together? 

YouTubers Sam and Nia are the central couple who are rocked by scandal in the documentary – and they are, indeed, still together. Not only that, but their YouTube channel – documenting their family life – is going strong with 2.52 million subscribers. They’ve also posted numerous videos about featuring in the show. 

Sam and Nia now have four children, and even renewed their marriage vows, which they documented in a recent video. They’ve since opened up in further interviews about the show, with Nia telling Netflix’s Tudum that she believes “marriages can be healed” and that “it’s worth fighting to fix your marriage”.

In another interview with the Daily Mail, Sam said: “We haven’t had a lot of kind people. Some people think I don’t deserve Nia and she should not be with me right now.

“But we have a happy marriage, full of true, deep intimacy, which was absent early on. We know each other down to the core and when that’s there, the intimacy is unmatched.”

Is Noel Biderman still married?

Former Avid Life Media CEO and father-of-two Noel Biderman was eventually exposed as having been a user of the site himself when a second, even larger batch of data was leaked. His personal emails were also shared, which revealed that he allegedly sought out young escorts. Eight days later he ultimately stepped down as CEO of Ashley Madison’s parent company.

Throughout the documentary, his wife Amanda defended the site, and appeared by her husband’s side during interviews. And it seems that Noel is still married to Amanda. At the end of the 2023 Hulu documentary, The Ashley Madison Affair, Noel’s lawyer said in a statement: “Mr. Biderman is – and was – a committed husband and father.”

Noel Biderman pictured in 2014
Noel Biderman pictured in 2014 via Associated Press

“Mr. Biderman was also the victim of a crime, like the customers of Ashley Madison whose public information was hacked and publicised,” it went on. 

“While Mr. Biderman understands the differences between himself and those customers, he — like many of them — have, in the intervening years, attempted to move on and repair the damage to his life and relationships. He feels fortunate that his wife, Amanda, has stood by him throughout.”

According to Forbes, Noel is currently the CEO of Toronto-based software company Avenue Insights.

Does Ashley Madison still exist?

Yes, the dating site is still active today. Less than a month after the hacks, Ashley Madison owner Avid Life Media claimed in a statement that there had been “hundreds of thousands” of new sign-ups since.

Not only that, but Ashley Madison chief strategy officer Paul Keable this month told Fox News that the site has seen an increase in membership since the new documentary’s release, claiming that there are now about 85 million users on the site. 

“We know what it looks like and feels like when we let our members down, and we’re committed to that never happening again,” he said.

Their X page has also continued to repost plenty of press coverage the site has been getting.

The homepage features the same whispering lips, and includes their trademark tagline: “When monogamy becomes monotony”.

Ashley Madison also describes its site as a place “free of judgement”, adding: “Ashley Madison revolves around the idea that consenting adults should be able to do whatever they want in private.”