Data hack sparks 'spin-off' crimes

OTTAWA • The Ashley Madison hack has sparked "spin-off" crimes including extortion and may have led to two suicides, Canadian police said, as the adultery website's parent company offered a C$500,000 (S$532,000) reward for leads on the culprits.

The release last week of stolen e-mail and data from some 32 million members of the Canada- based site - including payment transactions, e-mail addresses and phone numbers - has stirred up a privacy nightmare.


"As of this morning, we have two unconfirmed reports of suicides associated with the leak of Ashley Madison customer profiles," Toronto police Staff Superintendent Bryce Evans said on Monday.

Supt Evans also pointed to crimes, including extortion, blackmail and online scams claiming to provide access to the leaked data and offers to delete it from the Web for a fee. One scam threatens to expose clients unless payment of C$300 is received.

"This hack is one of the largest data breaches in the world and is very unique on its own in that it exposed tens of millions of people's personal information, including their credit card data," Supt Evans said.

Ashley Madison, launched in 2001, is known for its slogan: "Life is short. Have an affair." It helps connect people seeking to have extramarital relationships and is owned by Avid Life Media.

Several Canadian police forces, United States Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are investigating the hack, while Australian and Canadian privacy watchdogs are also probing the case.

Supt Evans said Ashley Madison is cooperating with the investigation and police have found "no criminal wrongdoing" by the company, as was alleged by the hackers.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2015, with the headline 'Data hack sparks 'spin-off' crimes'. Print Edition | Subscribe