Unlike the tagline “Life is Short. Have an Affair”, the Ashley Madison affair has been a messy one. The online dating service and social network for committed adults were targeted by hackers last year. The hackers stole user information and threatened to publish unless the company Avid Life Media shut down its platforms, Ashley Madison and Established Men.
Avid Life Media ignored the demands, leading to the hackers publishing the information and personal details of the users online. Among the leaked files were internal email communications as well. The huge data dump by hackers resulted in another serious problem. Criminals decided to make use of this ill-gotten data for their own benefit. People whose information was leaked online found themselves at the receiving end of blackmail threats. Many Ashely Madison users were contacted by blackmailers threatening to inform their spouses and employers about the details uploaded on the platform in confidence.
The hackers demanded $2,500 ransom in bitcoin from the victims in order to prevent the information from reaching their families, loved ones or employers. With time, these threats faded only to resurface again in the recent days. This time, it is not the user who is being targeted by the blackmailers, but their spouses. The blackmailer (or blackmailers) seems to have decided to make good of their threats by sending a letter informing the Ashley Madison users’ spouses about their better half’s indiscretions.
A website has published a redacted copy of one such letter where the hacker has explained to the woman that her spouse was adulterous and he has signed up on Ashley Madison under the following name (the username/alias of the person on the website was also mentioned). The blackmailer further goes on to inform them about his extortion scheme where he had demanded $2500 in bitcoin from the allegedly cheating spouse and the letter is sent to her as the ransom was not paid within a stipulated time period. The blackmailer also suggests that he might attempt to get in touch with the couple’s other family members and inform them about the incident as well.
The blackmailers seem to be making an attempt to get the spouse to influence the targeted victim into paying the ransom. Or he is implying that he knows everything about their family and can reach out to them. Whether this ploy will be successful or not is still unknown. There have been no reports of any victims or their spouses paying the bitcoin ransom to the blackmailer yet.
In other news, small businesses in Sussex, UK have recently reported having received online messages from unknown actors claiming to be hackers. They have demanded varying sums as ransom to be paid in digital currency. Otherwise, they have threatened to hack the businesses’ websites. While bitcoin crimes, like ransomware attacks, blackmails continue, it is advisable not to pay heed to the ransom demands. Paying ransom may encourage the perpetrator to ask for more ransom or still go ahead with the original intention. Either way, it is better not to encourage such behavior.
Ref: The Guardian | Image Source: Graham Cluley