Ashley Madison leak may still be leading to blackmail 6 months later

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It was exactly six months ago this week that hackers leaked information from 37 million accounts on the extramarital dating site Ashley Madison, and we watched the world's largest soap opera unfold. But based on a recently released letter that appears to show one user being blackmailed, it seems the fallout isn't over yet.

There were many accounts of blackmail threats against Ashley Madison users immediately after hacker group "The Impact Team" released data stolen from the site, but a blog post that cybersecurity expert Graham Cluley published Thursday shows a recent alleged blackmail letter. The recipient claims they received the letter via the U.S. Postal Service just a few days ago.

"Hello [redacted], you don't know me but I know you very well," the letter begins. "Yes, I know about your secret, that you paid for services from a company that specializes in facilitating adultery. But what makes me a threat to you is that I have also spent several days getting to know about you, your family and others in your life."

The letter demands the recipient send $2,000 in bitcoin within 10 days or else face exposure to his family and coworkers.

Source: grahamcluley.com

Source: grahamcluley.com

Cluley says he believes the letter is authentic. "It's hard to be 100 percent certain, but the email conversation I had with the user appeared legitimate. He initially did not offer to send me a copy of the letter—I asked for it," Cluley told Vocativ. "If it had been someone trying to wind me up perhaps they would have been keener to share it with me." It is, however, possible that the letter is part of a phishing scam, in which the blackmailer simply sends out multiple such letters to random men and women, hoping that even one of the recipients actually was a member of the site who might pony up the bitcoin for fear of exposure.

While this is a rare instance in which someone has shared a blackmail letter with Cluley, he says his readers often tell him about similar cases. One reader mentioned an extortion attempt in the comment section of Cluley's blog post. "I had one of my employees receive one of these letters at work—it even had our company name on the envelope!" the commenter wrote. "It was identical to the one in the post."

Cluley doesn't think anyone receiving these threats should pay. He suggests that anyone in this position should share evidence with the authorities, including postal inspectors. He also thinks people should still be prepared to receive similar letters in the mail if they've ever used the site.

"Ashley Madison is one of the saddest, sickest stories I think I've ever come across in all my years in the security industry," he said. "I think the Ashley Madison blackmailing is going to go on for a long time yet."

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Ashley Madison leak may still be leading to blackmail 6 months later
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 19: A detail of the Ashley Madison website on August 19, 2015 in London, England. Hackers who stole customer information from the cheating site AshleyMadison.com dumped 9.7 gigabytes of data to the dark web on Tuesday fulfilling a threat to release sensitive information including account details, log-ins and credit card details, if Avid Life Media, the owner of the website didn't take Ashley Madison.com offline permanently. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 19: A detail of the Ashley Madison website on August 19, 2015 in London, England. Hackers who stole customer information from the cheating site AshleyMadison.com dumped 9.7 gigabytes of data to the dark web on Tuesday fulfilling a threat to release sensitive information including account details, log-ins and credit card details, if Avid Life Media, the owner of the website didn't take Ashley Madison.com offline permanently. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 19: In this photo illustration, a man visits the Ashley Madison website on August 19, 2015 in London, England. Hackers who stole customer information from the cheating site AshleyMadison.com dumped 9.7 gigabytes of data to the dark web on Tuesday fulfilling a threat to release sensitive information including account details, log-ins and credit card details, if Avid Life Media, the owner of the website didn't take Ashley Madison.com offline permanently. (Photo illustration by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Ashley Madison's International Affairs Director Christoph Kraemer speaks during a press conference in Seoul on April 14, 2015. The global adultery hook-up site Ashley Madison has come back to business in South Korea with vengeance after the country's Constitutional Court struck down a 65-year-old adultery law. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
A man looks at a dating site on his computer in Washington,DC on February 10, 2014. AFP PHOTO/EVA HAMBACH (Photo credit should read EVA HAMBACH/AFP/Getty Images)
In this June 10, 2015 photo, Ashley Madison's Korean web site is shown on a computer screen in Seoul, South Korea. The Ashley Madison cheating website is making a lucrative, controversial splash in South Korea in the wake of a landmark ruling earlier this year that decriminalizes adultery. So great is the interest here that company executives expect it to be a top-three market globally for them in five years, after the United States and Canada. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
This photo illustration taken on August 20, 2013 shows the homepage of the Ashley Madison dating website displayed on a laptop in Hong Kong. The founder of a dating service promoting adultery is setting his sights on China's cheating hearts after a controversial launch in Hong Kong. AFP PHOTO / Philippe Lopez (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
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