Police say Ashley Madison hack is taking a toll on families around the world

A massive cyberattack on a website facilitating extramarital affairs is taking a toll on families across the world, Toronto police said Monday as they announced two unconfirmed reports of suicides and a string of extortion crimes related to the hack.

TORONTO — A massive cyberattack on a website facilitating extramarital affairs is taking a toll on families across the world, Toronto police said Monday as they announced two unconfirmed reports of suicides and a string of extortion crimes related to the hack.

Police warned those responsible that their actions would not be tolerated as an international investigation into the AshleyMadison.com breach is carried out.

“This ain’t fun and games anymore, this is reality, this is affecting all of us,” said Acting Staff Supt. Bryce Evans. “The social impact behind this leak, we’re talking about families, we’re talking about children, we’re talking about wives, their male partners. It’s going to have impacts on their lives.”

Evans would not provide details on the two unconfirmed suicides, but published U.S. media reports have said a police captain in San Antonio, Texas took his own life after his official email address was linked to an Ashley Madison account.

The Canadian-owned Ashley Madison site — whose slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair” — claims to have about 39 million members around the world.

The site was the victim of a cyberattack a month ago. Employees powering up their computers were greeted with a threatening message accompanied by the song “Thunderstruck” by rock band AC/DC.

Hackers referring to themselves as the Impact Team vowed to release Ashley Madison customer data unless the website was permanently shut down.

Police said Avid Life launched an investigation, employed a computer security firm and contacted police but last week, the Impact Team released detailed records of millions of people from several countries registered with the website.

A Canadian Press analysis found hundreds of email addresses in the data release appeared to be connected to federal, provincial and municipal workers across Canada, as well as to the RCMP and the military.

“This hack is one of the largest data breaches in the world and is very unique on its own in that it exposed tens of millions of people’s personal information,” said Evans. “The ripple effect of the Impact Team’s actions has and will continue to have long-term social and economic impacts. And they have already sparked spin-offs of crimes and further victimization.”

Police said criminals capitalizing on the cyberattack were using the leaked information to try extorting people through scams that included asking for fees to purportedly delete customer data.

“Nobody is going to be able to erase that information,” Evans said, adding that anyone being extorted should report the matter to their local police force.

Evans said those responsible for the cyberattack need to know their actions are under intense scrutiny by law enforcement partners around the world, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.

He addressed the Impact Team directly, saying their actions are “illegal and will not be tolerated.”

“This is your wake-up call,” he said. “We are now doing a serious investigation and inviting all our partners.”

Evans also appealed to others in the hacking community, asking them to help police because they knew “the Impact Team has crossed the line.”

Avid Life Media, the parent company of Ashley Madison, is co-operating with the police investigation, Evans said, and is offering a $500,000 reward for information leading to the identification and prosecution of the hackers.

Separately, the federal privacy commission is opening its own investigation into the Ashley Madison data breach, saying it will be probing the attack with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner and in co-operation with other international counterparts.

The commissioner’s office has been talking with the company to determine how the breach occurred and what is being done about it.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chris Scott, owner of The Whistle Stop Cafe, was put in handcuffs after an anti-restriction protest Saturday in the parking lot of the business. (Screenshot via The Whistle Stop Facebook page)
UPDATE: Central Alberta cafe owner arrested after anti-restriction protest

The owner of a central Alberta cafe, which was the site of… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer now has 911 active COVID-19 cases

Central zone has 2,917 active cases

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre's expansion project is still a high priority, says Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer hospital ICU admissions stable, but rising, says surgeon

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s intensive care unit is in better… Continue reading

Alberta recorded a single-day record of over 57,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered. (Photo courtesy Alberta Health Services Twitter)
Alberta hits daily record of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered

Central zone has administered 111,735 doses of the COVID-19

FILE - A firefighter wears a mask as he drives his truck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward, File
VIDEO: Flames rip through Edmonton-area seniors complex, but no fatalities

ST. ALBERT, Alta. — Fire has destroyed part of a retirement complex… Continue reading

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, is setting off a social media reaction with his calls to stop non essential shopping, such as "buying sandals at Costco", with this photo of his worn sandals, which he published to social media on Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Dr. Robert Strang, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Nova Scotia’s top doctor sparks meme with caution on non-essential shopping

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s top doctor has launched a social media meme… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. Canada's chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Tam warns that full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Canada’s chief public health officer reminded Canadians on Saturday that even those… Continue reading

Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour conducts drills during NHL hockey training camp in Morrisville, N.C., Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
NHL relaxing virus protocols for vaccinated playoff teams

The NHL is relaxing virus protocols for teams that reach a threshold… Continue reading

Canada skip Kerri Einarson directs her teammates against Sweden in a qualification game at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canada’s Einarson eliminated at curling worlds after 8-3 loss to Sweden’s Hasselborg

CALGARY — Canada’s Kerri Einarson was eliminated at the world women’s curling… Continue reading

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman didn’t expect to get hit with a double whammy at… Continue reading

A courtroom at the Edmonton Law Courts building, in Edmonton on Friday, June 28, 2019. The effect of the coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting impact on the Canadian justice system warn a number of legal experts. The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench announced Sunday it would adjourn all scheduled trials across the province for at least 10-weeks limiting hearings to only emergency or urgent matters. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton mother found guilty of manslaughter in death of five-year-old girl

EDMONTON — An Edmonton woman was found guilty Friday of manslaughter in… Continue reading

A Statistics Canada 2016 Census mailer sits on the key board of a laptop after arriving in the mail at a residence in Ottawa, May 2, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Statistics Canada sees more demand to fill out census online during pandemic

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the response to the census is higher… Continue reading

Travellers, who are not affected by new quarantine rules, arrive at Terminal 3 at Pearson Airport in Toronto, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. Ottawa will create a new digital platform to help in processing immigration applications more quickly and efficiently after COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for a faster shift to a digital immigration system, the immigration department said. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ottawa to create new system to tackle delays in processing immigration applications

Ottawa says it will create a new digital platform to help process… Continue reading

Most Read