Ashley Madison hack: Q&A with the Toronto police investigator on the case

The Toronto Police Service is leading the investigation into the Ashley Madison hacking case, which Staff Supt. Bryce Evans called "one of the largest data breaches in the world." CBC News spoke with Evans one on one.

Toronto Police Service leads multiple law enforcement agencies investigating hack

Ashley Madison Q&A with Toronto investigator

8 years ago
Duration 2:59
Toronto Police Service Staff Supt. Bryce Evans updates CBC News on the investigation into the hacking of the infidelity website.

The Toronto Police Service is leading the investigation into the Ashley Madison hacking case, which Staff Supt. Bryce Evans called "one of the largest data breaches in the world."

Investigators say 30 million email addresses belonging to users of the infidelity site run by Avid Life Media have been leaked online, and there have been two unconfirmed cases of suicide, reports of hate crimes and attempts to extort the site's users.

The CBC's Stephanie Matteis spoke with Evans to discuss the investigation.

Stephanie Matteis (SM): A number of police enforcement agencies are involved. Can you tell me what's next for them?

Staff Supt. Bryce Evans (BE): Last week, we reached out to our law enforcement partners — the FBI, [U.S. Department of] Homeland Security, RCMP and OPP. And what we asked for was for them to bring the top cyber investigators they have within their certain law enforcement groups to meet with us, which they have. We're continuing our meeting to strategize as new information comes forward in this investigation the best approach.

SM: When you're talking about those cyber strategists, those people who have that knowledge, what specific expertise does the Toronto police have in tracking down hackers?

Ashley Madison's website was hacked last month, but the data was only dumped online last week. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)
BE: Toronto police has a very good unit. We call it C3. Within the last year and a half the chief of police, Mark Saunders, he formed this group and we have experts in this group. But the magnitude of this investigation, we thought it was best that bring on more people to assist.

SM: And you've even said you're hoping hackers themselves — like Anonymous for example — might help with this investigation. But why would they want to?

BE: There's no doubt in my mind, that with 30 million-plus victims who are just on the Ashley Madison site … that these hackers can be victims. They can also be family members or personal friends. They're humans, too. So we're looking on the hacker community to reach out and assist us. And as you know Anonymous reached out recently in the last couple years to help in the police investigation out on the east coast with the young lady who committed suicide because of the images that were captured. Anonymous was the one that stepped up and found those images.

SM: Well you've mentioned the victims and you've also referred to unconfirmed suicides in undisclosed locations. It's not very substantive. What more can you tell us?

BE: Well right now we received the information this morning that there was (sic) two persons that were on the list that committed suicide. That information we're now trying to source it. It was brought to our attention. I know that CNN has reported an incident already. But we in the Toronto Police Service want to make sure we have our source information before we further speak about it. But let's make this perfectly clear, it's not unusual in the life of policing we see people who are very distraught. And there's no doubt because of this hack and the information released there's going to be a lot of distraught people. Some people can't face their families. They can't face their relatives. They can't face their work mates.

SM: There have been a number of officials on the Ashley Madison list. What if there are police officers' names on there as well? Is it a conflict to investigate this crime?

BE: No, not whatsoever. As you know every corporation, business, media outlets you guys have your rules of procedures in regarding of the using of emails, company emails. We're no different. It's not a criminal offence. But in Toronto what we'll be doing is having our professional standards review.