NOEL BIDERMAN Documentary : The rise and fall of Noel Biderman
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Noel Biderman (born 1971) is a Canadian Internet entrepreneur, former sports agent, and business marketing and operations specialists from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Biderman has occupied roles as coroporate President, CEO, COO and International Lead for businesses that have operated in 58 different countries around the globe.Biderman is the former CEO of Avid Life Media and was the Chief Executive of parent company extramarital affair website Ashley Madison
The controversial extra-marital affairs site was hacked , resulting in the leak of more than 30 million users' highly compromising personal data. Facing catastrophic reputational damage as well as multiple lawsuits for hundreds of millions of dollars, parent company Avid Life Media announced that Biderman has left the company .
This is the story of his strange rise to become the self-proclaimed "most hated man on the internet" — and his extremely sudden fall.
Growing up in Toronto Noel Biderman attended the York Mills Collegiate Institute in 1986, the University of California (economics) in 1989, and in 1996 graduated from York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School.
Biderman is a former lawyer and sports agent.
Noel began his career as a sports agent in 1997 at Interperformances Inc., eventually becoming director of all Canadian operations.Interperformances Inc. is one of the largest and most dynamic sports agencies in the world. Interperformances is a full-service agency specializing in the representation of professional athletes throughout the world.
In 2000 Noel began a position at Homestores Inc. (now, Move.Inc.), eventually becoming General Manager of Canadian Operations (Nasdaq: MOVE). Move, Inc, is a real estate web site, which operates real estate web sites for consumers and real estate professionals. The Move Network of websites captures more than 30 million monthly visitors.
In December 2005 began a position at Jump TV (TSX: JUMP) and was named Head of Product Development and Marketing. JumpTV Inc. is a Canadian company, the country’s largest internet television carrier.
Biderman became CEO of Avid Life Media and Ashley Madison in 2007.Ashley Madison, or more accurately The Ashley Madison Agency, was founded in 2002 by Darren Morgenstern.The company slogan is "Life is short. Have an affair."
Responding to critics, Biderman says that Ashley Madison does not promote infidelity, "We're just a platform. No website or 30-second ad is going to convince anyone to cheat. People cheat because their lives aren't working for them." He has said that he writes the commercials for his company (which have featured two attractive people in the throes of passion, and then the sign: "This couple is married...but not to each other"), which the LA Times called "hilarious."Biderman marketed Ashley Madison as having a focus on married women, instead of married men. "I was very confident that men would gravitate towards a service to conduct these otherwise anonymous affairs. They were seemingly doing it already," Biderman told BusinessWeek. "I was much less confident that women would behave that way." Biderman's concern was confirmed in the data breach of 2015 which revealed that less than 1% of the female users were ever active on the site, the 5 million accounts held by women "show so little activity that they might as well not be there".
In the summer of 2015, the Ashley Madison website was hacked and sensitive information of millions users was released publicly. Biderman was accused by the hackers of failing to delete accounts from the website even after customers paid to have accounts removed.Biderman's emails were also released.In the wake of the hack, on August 28, 2015 the Ashley Madison website announced in an unattributed statement that Noel Biderman's tenure as chief executive officer of Avid Life Media Inc. ended.
Biderman has appeared on The Tyra Banks Show, The View, Larry King Live, GluckRadio and Rogers TV's Daytime York Region. Biderman also served as a judge for the Miss Tiger Woods mistress pageant on The Howard Stern Show, which was sponsored by Biderman's Ashley Madison.
In an interview with comedian Amy Schumer, Biderman states that wives gaining weight "is a legitimate reason" for husbands to seek sex outside their marriages. He told Australia's "A Current Affair" program that if he found out that his own wife was accessing his cheater's site, "I would be devastated." .
'Life is short. Have an affair."
That's the slogan of the Ashley Madison dating service, a website for people who want to cheat on their partners. That's right, unlike traditional Internet dating sites -- where you're expected to say you're unattached no matter what the truth is -- Ashley Madison is honest about its duplicity. Unlike match.com, with its married interlopers, Ashley Madison isn't about to break the hearts of innocent singles who only want to live happily ever after with someone who loves Elvis Costello as much as they do. And although its mission can be perceived as very wrong (for the record: cheating is bad!), the fact that it claims 3.2 million members suggests that it's also doing something right.
For starters, the commercials are hilarious. One television spot shows a glamorous couple in the throes of passion. A title card reads, "This couple is married ... but not to each other." In another ad, a man retreats to the sofa to escape his obese, snoring wife while a voice-over declares, "Most of us can recover from a one-night stand with the wrong woman, but not when it's every night for the rest of our lives."
The ads, as well as the slogan, were written by the company's 37-year-old founder and chief executive, Noel Biderman, a former attorney, sports agent and self-described happily married father of two who started the company in 2001.
Auckland psychologist Nathan Gaunt said people who signed up had to be prepared for repercussions.
"People have to question why they are doing it. It's a good time for people to take stock of the relationship if they are considering that sort of thing."
Sex expert Blair Bishop said the site was a "tangible and realistic acknowledgment" of a change in society - traditional monogamy was a "myth" and infidelity was a part of life.
"Infidelity can be damaging ... but not always. I suspect more people want to do it, but it's not something we talk about."
Gaunt said any affair was laced with "deception, deceit and betrayal".
"Society may have changed and relationships may have changed but I don't think the need for honesty and trust has changed. If anything, they have become more important."
Biderman said the site was constantly monitored and profiles containing aggressive or inappropriate content were removed.
But it was impossible to stop sexual predators trawling the site and users had to rely on common sense to stay safe.
"We have been operating for almost nine years, servicing more than 5.5 million members, and have never had a single incident."
Noel Biderman's controversial reputation.
* Noel Biderman's site has generated so much controversy he was flanked by two security guards when he attended the Australian launch last week.
* Users have accused him of ruining relationships. He has been the topic of heated debates on US talk shows including Dr Phil, Ellen and Larry King.
* In February he offered to pay the US city of Phoenix $10 million to rename its international airport the Ashley Madison International Airport for five years. It said no.
* Two months earlier he offered to subsidise public transport fares in Toronto if the transit authority allowed him to advertise on its property. It too declined.
* US TV network NBC refused to show ads for the website during coverage of the 2009 Superbowl because they were too racy.
Was Ashley Madison a website full of married guys who spent their time trying to hook up with bots and/or other guys whom they thought were women? Gizmodo has taken a look at some of the leaked data about the website and has found that the reality is 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.”
Gizmodo took a look at female profiles on the site and discovered that most of them were never used at all after they were created. In fact, the site estimates that roughly 12,000 of the 5.5 million registered female accounts are actually used by women on a regular basis. Gizmodo used a lot of smart detective work to come up with this estimate, including looking at IP addresses that created a suspiciously large number of women’s profiles.
But here’s the really amazing thing: When Gizmodo went to see how many Ashley Madison users checked messages they’d received from other users, the website found a hilarious disparity that showed the ratio of men checking messages to women checking messages was 13,585 : 1. Seriously.
“Overall, the picture is grim indeed. Out of 5.5 million female accounts, roughly zero percent had ever shown any kind of activity at all, after the day they were created,” Gizmodo writes. “The men’s accounts tell a story of lively engagement with the site, with over 20 million men hopefully looking at their inboxes, and over 10 million of them initiating chats. The women’s accounts show so little activity that they might as well not be there.”
A swathe of emails from the inbox of Ashley Madison's chief executive is now being scoured by a variety of security experts and journalists.
The 30 gigabyte dump of stolen data appears to include nearly 200,000 emails belonging to Noel Biderman.
Some experts have decided not to view the contents, but certain details are being distributed via Twitter.
There has also been more fallout from the release of an earlier batch of dataincluding Ashley Madison user emails.
TrustedSec, a US security firm, has published a blog in which it verifies the basic details of the email data, released last week.
The company says the files amount to 30 gigabytes' worth and regard 6,800 unique senders and 3,600 unique recipients.
The veracity of the most recent data dump has also been confirmed by Norwegian security researcher Per Thorsheim, who was able to decompress the files.
"I saw one email or two emails and I could verify the sender, the recipient, the domains and everything so it has to be an email from the CEO's mailbox," he told the BBC.
"There's no doubt about that."
However, Mr Thorsheim says that beyond verifying that the dump is real, he is not interested in reading the contents of the emails.
Speaking to the BBC, the security firm hired by Ashley Madison to investigate the hack said it appeared to have been carried out through unusual means.
"I can say that unlike many similar attacks, where a remote attacker has been able to use a security vulnerability such as an SQL [programming language] injection in order to dump data directly, that was not the case here," said Joel Eriksson, a security expert at Cycura.
The Motherboard news site has published excerpts of several of the emails, which appear to contain discussions around Ashley Madison's security policy.
"This hack affects potentially millions of people," journalist Joseph Cox told the BBC.
"The massive email dump, which appears to be legitimate, gives some insight into what those who were in charge of the site really thought about security."
One screenshot of the emails published by Motherboard reveals one employee's suggestion that news of a different social networking site being hacked could be "used as a PR spin".
Meanwhile, users who have been linked to Ashley Madison by email addresses found in an earlier release of data have been the subject of uninvited scrutiny.
Troy Hunt, who has been blogging about the implications of the hack, has described the case of church leader (who he chose not to identify) who had contacted a member of their own congregation, whose email address was linked to an Ashley Madison account.
Hunt says that he has also received a "huge number of enquiries" from worried individuals who are concerned that they may be associated with Ashley Madison, whether or not they have actually created an account on the website themselves.
"People are desperate to get the data," he told the BBC.
"They're resorting to things that could get them into hot water, like trying to download the data themselves.
"I don't think it's right for the individuals in the Ashley Madison database to have their personal lives put on display," he added. "Very often these people are entirely innocent."
Mr Hunt and others have warned that users may be the subject of blackmail and extortion attempts.
Indeed, security blogger Brian Krebs reported last week that spam emails demanding Bitcoin payments were targeting email addresses found in the Ashley Madison data.
Although the implications of the data's release are still to be determined, some commentators are already pointing out that they could be far-reaching.
Two law firms have launched a class action lawsuit against Ashley Madisonin recent days, and it is possible that the plaintiffs would seek to use information from the chief executive's leaked emails to help build a case, according to Mark Watts, head of data protection at London law firm Bristows.
"If the emails sent to/from the CEO are relevant to the case (ie to the class action) then I suspect that the lawyers involved would seek to rely upon them if they are helpful to the case," he told the BBC.
Watts explained that even though the emails have been obtained illegally, any relevant correspondence to the case would probably have been discovered later anyway as part of the legal process.
"Essentially, the claimants' lawyers would just be getting them early," he said.
Now we know that almost none of the woman in the Ashley Madison database ever used the site. The question is, was this a deliberate fraud? Or was it just a dating site gone wrong?
There are many reasons to call fraud on Ashley Madison’s parent company Avid Life Media, including the fact that they forced men to pay to delete their profiles—and then kept their personal data anyway. But I would argue that Ashley Madison’s fraud goes beyond the paid delete scam. The real scam is false advertising. In commercials and on the site itself, the company promises men that they will meet real women who want to have affairs.
Men can even pay a premium rate for a “guaranteed affair.” To email women, men have to pay extra, and then they have to pay more still if they want to send a “gift” of a silly gif or picture. Using the site as a man is a little bit like playing Farmville, except instead of blowing your money on fake cow upgrades, you’re blowing it on messages to fake women. At least Farmville is up front about the fact that you’re burning money for a dumb fantasy.
Still, the business model worked. According to CNN, Ashley Madison’s parent company Avid Life Media made $115.5 million in revenue in 2014.
Ashley Madison never promised men that they would find women easily, but they did promise that real women inhabited the site and were active there. Eventually, if a man paid for enough messages, he’d meet his match. But instead of talking to real women, men were mostly fielding robo-mails from the system that say things like, “Sexicindi has indicated she is interested in someone just like you. You should send her a custom message to connect.”Born in 1971, Biderman is a Toronto native. The grandson of Holocaust survivors, he is Jewish — although unsurprisingly, he thinks the 10 Commandments are "outdated."According to a Bloomberg feature in 2011, "a large chunk of his work as an agent involved helping professional basketball players juggle their wives and mistresses." It was from here the idea for Ashley Madison was born.
The company launched in 2001, and in 2007 was acquired by Avid Life Media, with Biderman taking the reins of the new parent company. It has since ballooned into a hundred-million-dollar business. In 2014, it had revenues of $115 million.
Biderman is a relentless self-promoter, having appeared as an "infidelity expert" on CNN, Dr. Phil, Katie Couric, and hundreds of other media outlets.
He has even written books about cheating — publishing "Cheaters Prosper: How Infidelity Will Save the Modern Marriage" in 2011, followed by "Adultropology: The Cyber-Anthropology Behind Infidelity" in 2013.
Despite this, Biderman says he's "happily married," and has two children with his wife Amanda Biderman. The couple have said they would be "devastated" if their partner cheated.
With more than 30 million members, Ashley Madison looked on top of the world earlier this year. Biderman even suggested he might look to IPO parent company Avid Life Media on the London Stock Exchange.
According to one leaked document, dating from January, Avid Life Media reached 46 countries and 28 different languages.
The CEO reveled in this notoriety: Ashley Madison became known for its provocative stunts, and Biderman describes himself on his personal website as "the most hated man on the internet."
At one point Ashley Madison was even sued by the Queen of Spain, over a photoshopped photo of her in one their adverts. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Bill Clinton, and Prince Charles have all also appeared in its provocative ads.
But on July 12, 2015 , Avid Life Media employees arrived at work to find a message from a hacker or hackers going by the name of The Impact Team waiting for them. It demanded the company close down Ashley Madison immediately.
Bizarrely, the song "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC played over the message on employee computers.
Avid Life Media didn't comply. So on August 18, The Impact Team dumped internal company documents online, along with compromising personal data about more than 30 million customers.
The user data contains email addresses, financial details, physical descriptions, and sexual preferences of Ashley Madison customers. There have already been reports of blackmail, divorces, and even (unconfirmed) suicides as a result of the leak.
This was then followed by a second, even larger leak. This included more confidential internal documents — and hundreds of thousands of Noel Biderman's emails, dating back years.
Included in these emails are some deeply embarrassing revelations about Biderman, including the fact that he once instructed someone to build an app called "What's Your Wife Worth?" that let men submit their wives to be rated by other users, based on how much they would pay to have sex with them.
and that he once apparently discussed hacking into a competitor's database with another executive ,
and that, despite his public claims, he has apparently had multiple illicit affairs.
Throughout all of this, Biderman has been totally silent, refusing all media requests.
But on Friday, August 28, Avid Life Media released a new statement. Biderman, "in mutual agreement with the company," was stepping down and leaving the company. The senior management team is to take control until a replacement is found.
With his professional reputation in tatters, it's now not clear what lies ahead for Noel Biderman — or Avid Life Media itself.
The company is facing lawsuits for hundreds of millions of dollars from furious customers. Even with Biderman gone, it may be too late to save.
Ashley Madison founder's emails reveal he had multiple affairs despite his claims he never cheated on his wife
Emails linked to Noel Biderman were exposed during second data dump
Email chains seemed to show attempted affairs with at least three women
Detailed relationship he had with Toronto student that involved payments
Had emails from woman he 'fantasized' about and others showing he tried to meet with woman whose number matched escort review site account
Father-of-two formed site with wife Amanda and he denied affairs in past
In the first instance detailed in the leaked emails, Biderman and a Toronto woman corresponded for more than two years and often discussed meeting at hotels and coffeeshops, BuzzFeed reported.
The substance of the emails revealed the woman, first identified as 'Melisa from the spa,' was a student with a boyfriend who was being compensated for her time by Biderman.
When their arrangement hit a rocky patch after she felt guilty, Biderman got her a job interview at Avid Life Media for an 'Spanish/English customer service representative' and wrote: 'I will also have a good 'signing bonus' for you :).'
She did not end up taking the job and their digital correspondence ceased.
In the second affair detailed in the emails, Biderman wrote to a woman to tell her he would reimburse her for cab fare and that he was 'fantasizing about later this evening :)'.
In the third set of leaked emails, Biderman tried to set up a meeting with a woman named 'Mila.'
She gave a phone number that corresponded with an account on TheEroticReview.com.
The review site is 'dedicated to finding those special women who truly enjoy making the time we spend with them something special' and provides a 'powerful and reliable reference tool for those who patronize erotic services on the Internet'.
The content of the sets of emails appear to contradict Biderman's assertions that he has not cheated on his wife.
The father-of-two formed Ashley Madison with his wife Amanda and he said in a February 2014 interview with the New York Daily News that their marriage was strong.
Two of the apparent affairs in his emails would have occurred or been ongoing at that time.
He said: 'If I wanted to have an affair, I would have one.'
When he was asked by the London Evening Standard four months later if he had cheated on his wife, Biderman replied: 'Not yet.'
He added: 'I’m only ten years into my marriage.
'We’re incredibly communicative about our sexual needs.
'But if I woke up beside my wife and it was the 200th day we hadn’t been intimate with one another and it looked like nothing would change, I would cheat so fast.
'I would cheat long before I would get a divorce. If you have children that you love and a home that you built together and a future that you planned - why would you give that up just for sex?”
During that interview, Biderman called himself the 'Google of cheating' and said the data collected by Ashley Madison would help researchers study infidelity.
Thanks to the data hack, people are studying the site's clients instead, including Biderman himself.
The hack of Ashley Madison has been framed by its perpetrator as an act of retribution — punishing the company for lies it has allegedly told its customers. The hacker or hackers who use the name Impact Team say the $20 "Full Delete" service Ashley Madison offered was fake. Users pay the fee in return for having all information on them scrubbed from the site. Impact Team says that this is a lie and that the company retains some information on users; Ashley Madison's parent company, Avid Life Media (ALM), denies this.
Whether or not the claim is true, it is the customers who are paying the price. CEO Noel Biderman's emails are now available online for anyone to read, but whatever potential embarrassments are hidden within most likely pale in comparison with the humiliation that Ashley Madison's millions of customers will soon feel or are already going through.
One of the earliest headlines following the dump of user data was the discovery that about 15,000 US military and government email addresses were included. Because users are not required to verify their email addresses upon signing up to Ashley Madison, many of these are certainly fake — but many of them will be real. The US military has already confirmed it is investigating, and it may be disciplining personnel who are discovered to be members. It's not unreasonable to expect that other companies are also already scanning for employees.
Meanwhile, the "outing" of users is well underway. Politicians, YouTube stars, and activists have all already been shamed for having emails on the site (some admit it, but at least one has denied signing up — email verification isn't required, after all). But this hunt isn't restricted to high-profile members.
Troy Hunt, a security expert who has become a point of contact for many of the hack's victims, has put together a tragic compilation of the emails he has received from terrified Ashley Madison users. Numerous tools quickly sprang up letting anyone see whether an email address was included in the dump; one person reached out to say they "got a call, from our church leaders yesterday, saying my husband's work email was on [Ashley Madison email checker], oh my!"
It's no surprise, then, that the first divorce proceedings relating to Ashley Madison have already begun.
One female Ashley Madison member reached out to The Intercept to share her story. She was a mother trapped in a loveless marriage with a man suffering from cancer. "I went on AM out of loneliness and despair, and found friendship, both male and female, with others trapped in terrible marriages trying to do right by their children," she wrote. "I expect to be ridiculed by colleagues, to lose my job, and to be publicly shamed."
In the West, an outed member's life is likely to be ruined, but unlikely to be (directly) threatened. Not so elsewhere in the world. According to Sky News, there are more than 1,000 Saudi Arabian email addresses in the dump. At least one gay Saudi Arabian Reddit user claims to have used the service because of its promise of discretion — he has since had to flee because homosexuality is punishable by death in the country.
Jobs are being threatened, families are being shattered, and yet another sinister consequence to the leak is already surfacing: extortion attempts. There are numerous reports of Ashley Madison members receiving emails from anonymous blackmailers demanding payment (typically in bitcoin) unless they want the details of their membership shared with their friends and family.
Not all blackmailers are necessarily after money, either. Intelligence agencies are most likely already "digging" through the data and considering how it can be used to leverage the people named within it, one cybersecurity executive told The Hill.
And now there are two reports of suicides linked to the hack.
When the intimate photos of dozens of female celebrities were leaked online in late 2014 in what has alternately been dubbed "Celebgate" or "The Fappening," it was an immediate violation. The victims were known immediately, but while the photos remain online, they could in the weeks following begin to repair the damage. Not so with Ashley Madison.
If a member of the site is not already outed or extorted, that's no guarantee the person will not be targeted in a week, or a month, or a year. The internet never forgets, and despite Avid Life Media's best efforts, it is a foregone conclusion that the database of users will never truly disappear online.
The true number of blackmail attempts, divorces, job losses, broken families, ruined lives, witch hunts, violent retributions, and suicides will not be known for years to come.
Even for those who aren't found out, it will always hang over them — an indefinite sentence for something that is not a crime, and may not even be immoral. As Glenn Greenwald argues in The Intercept:
The fact that someone’s name appears in the Ashley Madison database does not mean they have engaged in marital infidelity. To begin with, it is easy to enter someone else's name and email address ... Beyond that, there are all sorts of reasons someone may use this website without having cheated on their spouse. Some may use the site as pornography because it titillates them, or because they are tempted to cheat but are resisting the urge, or because they're married but in a relationship where monogamy is not demanded, or because they're researchers or journalists observing this precinct of online interaction, or countless other reasons. This permanent, highly public shaming of these "adulterers" is not only puritanical but reckless in the extreme, since many who end up branded with the scarlet "A" may have done absolutely nothing wrong.
How many Ashley Madison members will feel compelled to keep their head down from here on out, for fear of being discovered? How many will avoid high-profile careers for fear of public scrutiny? How many will be forced to live in shame and secrecy? It's impossible to know.
For the Ashley Madison members who aren't discovered, the punishment never ends.