Ashley Madison hack: 2 unconfirmed suicides linked to breach, Toronto police say

Toronto police warn hackers of Ashley Madison that their actions "won't be tolerated," and say two unconfirmed suicides are linked to the breach. The company that owns the infidelity website is also offering a $500,000 reward.

Actions 'won't be tolerated,' police say of 30 million email addresses released from infidelity site

Toronto police Staff Supt. Bryce Evans said there have been two unconfirmed reports of suicide linked to the Ashley Madison hack. (Jean-Francois Bisson/CBC)

Toronto police warned hackers of the Ashley Madison infidelity website that their actions "won't be tolerated," and said there are two unconfirmed suicides linked to the breach.

"This hack is one of the largest data breaches in the world," said Staff Supt. Bryce Evans at a Monday morning news conference.

More than 30 million email addresses and some credit card data were released as a result of the hack last month.

"Your actions are illegal and won't be tolerated," said Evans about a case also now being investigated by Canada's privacy commissioner.

He didn't give any further details where the unconfirmed suicide cases may have occurred. Evans also said there have been reports of hate crimes connected to the hack.

Avid Life Media, which runs the infidelity website, has offered $500,000 to anyone who contributes information that leads to an arrest in the case. The Toronto-based company has not revealed how much data was stolen by hackers.

Police at the news conference also warned people whose data may have been compromised about a number of scams targeting them in the wake of the breach.

No charges have been laid in connection with the case, which police have dubbed Project Unicorn.

Evans said the case has attracted "enormous" attention around the world due to the scandalous nature of the Ashley Madison website, which used to advertise with the catchphrase: "Life is short. Have an affair."

But he said what's happening to the site's users — who weren't necessarily having affairs – is "no joke."

The nature of Ashley Madison's website, he said, is "of no interest" to investigators and the only criminal wrongdoing in the case has been committed by the hackers.

Data dumped online last week 

Evans said a number of sites are extorting Ashley Madison clients, and offering to erase their names for a fee, something he says cannot be done.

The Ashley Madison website was hacked in July, but the data was only dumped online last week. (Eric Foss/CBC)
"Nobody is going to be able to erase that information," Evans said, adding clicking on many of those links exposes your computer to malware and viruses.

Police also asked the tech community, as well as "white hat hackers" who don't engage in crime, to come forward if they have any information about the Impact Team or suggestion of avenues to investigate. 

A group calling itself Impact Team has claimed responsibility for the hack.

The hacking case began on July 12, when Avid Life Media employees powered up their computers to find a threatening message on their screens and AC/DC's Thunderstruck playing through their speakers, Evans said.

The hackers called on the company to shut down Ashley Madison, as well as another of its sites called Established Men, which links young women with wealthy older men.

When the company refused, the hackers dumped Ashley Madison's client list online on Aug. 18, along with a simple online post saying "time's up." 

Since, the hackers have also released emails from Avid Life Media's CEO, Noel Biderman.

The RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police, Toronto police and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation are involved in investigating the breach, according to Avid Life Media.

Privacy watchdog investigates

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is investigating the breach.

"Given that the company is based in Canada, and considering the global scope of the incident, our office will be investigating jointly with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, and in co-operation with other international counterparts," spokeswoman Valerie Lawton said in an email.

Lawton could say little about the investigation, but confirmed the privacy commissioner has been in touch with Avid Life Media.

Avid Life Media issued a statement on Monday praising the investigating law enforcement agencies — including the Toronto Police, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, OPP, RCMP, and FBI — and pledging to co-operate in any way possible.

"We are confident that the considerable investigative and prosecutorial power that is being brought to bear on this unprecedented crime will lead to arrests and convictions," said the statement.


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