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

Two Suicides May Have Resulted From Ashley Madison Leak
Two Suicides May Have Resulted From Ashley Madison Leak

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.



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."

See images of the extramarital dating site:

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