The hack of adultery website Ashley Madison has triggered extortion crimes and led to two reported suicides – including that of a veteran police captain.
The company behind Ashley Madison is offering a 500,000 Canadian dollar (£240,677) reward for information leading to the arrest of members of a group that hacked the site.
This is affecting all of us, we’re talking about familiesSupt Bryce Evans
Hackers last week released detailed records on millions of people registered with the site, a month after a break-in at Ashley Madison’s parent company, Toronto-based Avid Life Media.
The website, whose slogan is, “Life is short. Have an affair”, is marketed to facilitate extramarital affairs.
The email address of Scottish MP Michelle Thomson appeared on a list of hacked customer data, but the Edinburgh East MP has denied knowing anything about the site or ever having used it. She said last week: “Along with potentially millions of others, an out-of-use email address seems to have been harvested by hackers.
Yesterday Captain Michael Gorhum, who served for 25 years with the San Antonio Police Department in Texas, was named as one of the suicide victims.
His work email address has been linked to an Ashley Madison account but it was not confirmed last night if his death was due to the leak.
Toronto Police acting staff superintendent Bryce Evans said yesterday that the hack was having an “enormous social and economic fallout”.
“This hack is one of the largest data breaches in the world,” he said. “This is affecting all of us. The social impact behind this leak, we’re talking about families, we’re talking about children, we’re talking about wives, their male partners.”
The hackers who took responsibility for the break-in had accused the website’s owners of deceit and incompetence, and said the company refused to bow to their demands to close the site. The hackers referred to themselves as the Impact Team.
The group first breached Ashley Madison’s servers last month but released the data last week to the Dark Web – a sub-level of the internet that cannot be accessed through normal browsers, and is often described as the “internet black market”.
Supt Evans said the hackers released the entire Ashley Madison client list, which claims to have more than 30 million users worldwide. He said the hackers also sent a taunting message to the company CEO and released his e-mails.
He added that there are confirmed cases of criminals attempting to extort Ashley Madison clients by threatening to expose them unless payment is received.
Mr Evans addressed the hackers directly, saying their actions are “illegal and will not be tolerated”. “This is your wake-up call,” he said.
A representative of the US Department of Homeland Security was also at the news conference.