Extortionists are now feasting upon the millions of e-mail addresses publicized following the Ashley Madison hack, demanding bitcoins in threats to reveal secrets to their significant others.
Ashley Madison is a dating and social networking website specializing in extramarital affairs. Its slogan is, “Life is short. Have an affair.” It has ranked as one of the most popular adult websites, drawing over 124 million monthly visitors.
In July, hackers reportedly stole the data of its 37 million users, and threatened to release “all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies” if Ashley Madison and a sister site, “Established Men”, aren’t taken down.
The hackers, calling themselves “The Impact Team”, last week posted the names, emails and private profiles of what may be all users, plus 9 million credit card transactions, internal e-mails and the site’s source code.
Their stated goal is to destroy Ashley Madison’s parent company, Avid Life Media. Among other grievances, the hackers allege that the site illegally earned $1.7 million in additional revenue in 2014 for its “delete everything” service. The site reportedly charged users $19 to delete all traces of their data, a commitment which the hackers claim was not lived up to, as evidenced by the content of the hackings.
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The site also offers “premium” services to the highest paying users, mostly male, guaranteeing them that they will successfully “find what they’re looking for” or get their money back. Men are charged when sending messages to “women”- sometimes, even if fictitious, computer-generated profiles- while women can message men for free.
Extortionists are now sending messages to the publicized e-mail addresses, demanding a payment of several hundred dollars in bitcoin, threatening to otherwise send their personal information to their significant others. They specify an exact sum, such as 1.0000001 BTC, in order to know who sent what. They also offer guidelines on how to purchase bitcoins, and give a deadline of 7 days.
As in other bitcoin extortion attempts, users aren’t biting. Only 0.003 BTC ($0.69) has been received at the specified bitcoin address (1B8eH7HR87vbVbMzX4gk9nYyus3KnXs4Ez) thus far. Incoming amounts are labelled with public notes mocking the hacker and making light of the situation.
The extortionists’ hope is that by sending such messages to such a large recipient pool, the odds are the some will bite.
The e-mail also specifies that if you are already divorced, you should consider how the leaked information will impact you in ongoing court proceedings. For those still married, it urges you to “consider how expensive a divorce lawyer is” relative to the requested bitcoin sum.