Future Tense

Fallout From Ashley Madison Breach Includes Extortion and Possible Suicides

A list of Ashley Madison’s users was unleashed on the world last week.

Photo by Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

There were bound to be consequences after hackers posted two extensive Ashley Madison data dumps last week. Canadian police said Monday that they have confirmed reports of extortion in which criminals threatened to expose someone whose name is on the user list if they didn’t pay to keep it quiet. Authorities have reported two alleged suicides among Ashley Madison users, though they have not confirmed whether they are connected to the data breach.

The Associated Press reports that Toronto Police Acting Staff-Superintendent Bryce Evans said, “This hack is one of the largest data breaches in the world. … This is affecting all of us.” He described the breach as having an “enormous social and economic fallout” and noted that the police are also investigating a link between the breach and some recent hate crimes.  

Avid Life Media Inc., which owns Ashley Madison and is a Toronto-based company, is offering a $500,000 Canadian (about $379,000) reward in an attempt to get information about the identity of the hackers. The AP reports that Canadian police are working with the FBI to try to identify the culprits.

At least one company is using the whole unfortunate situation as a PR opportunity. Travel group CheapAir.com is offering $50 vouchers for anyone who sends the company a message from an email address that was disclosed on the leaked user list. “If your relationship is in ruins and you’re thinking about heading out of town, we have a solution for you,” the company wrote. “You may have made some mistakes, but a vacation may be just what you both need right now.” Tasteful.

Though most of the damage has already been done, there is one thing people can do to mitigate further loss: Remember that the Ashley Madison data is already public (if slightly tricky to access). Don’t believe anyone who says they can remove your information for a fee. It’s too late.