Avid Life Media, the company behind Ashley Madison — an online service that helps married people have affairs — is to offer a CAD$500,000 ($380,000) reward for information that leads to the “identification, arrest and prosecution” of the people responsible for a data leak that revealed the identities of millions of users.
The reward comes as unconfirmed reports emerge that two former Ashley Madison clients have committed suicide in the wake of the massive data breach. The revelation was made at a police press conference in Toronto earlier today, where Avid Life Media is headquartered.
“As of this morning, we have two unconfirmed reports of suicides that are associated to the leaks of Ashley Madison’s customer profiles,” said acting staff superintendent Bryce Evans.
Though he didn’t elaborate on the reports, a San Antonio publication ran a piece last week saying a number of @sanantonio.gov email addresses had shown up in the data dump. A city employee subsequently committed suicide, though it wasn’t clear whether it was directly related to the leak.
Evans also warned that people searching for data from the Ashley Madison leak could be targeted by other cybercriminals.
— Toronto Police (@TorontoPolice) August 24, 2015
Founded in 2001, Ashley Madison has built a big business off the back of its slogan, “Life is short. Have an affair,” amassing almost 40 million users along the way. However, in mid-July the site was seemingly compromised by a group that called itself “The Impact Team,” claiming to have procured the personal data of millions of users.
The group said it had stolen the information because of Ashley Madison’s policy of not deleting personal information after a user had paid for it to be deleted. Some limited data trickled out initially, but the big data dump kicked off on August 18, with many gigabytes of information posted online.
There have been many high-profile data breaches of late, but the nature of the Ashley Madison leak is particularly notable. Not only is it one of the biggest hacks ever, affecting 33 million accounts, but with a gargantuan trove of information on people who may have cheated on their partners, it was feared this could lead to the destruction of families and careers.
While Toronto Police stated that the suicide reports are still unconfirmed, it does give the biggest hint yet that the impact of the information leak could extend beyond what many people feared.
“The ripple effect of the Impact Team’s actions has — and will continue to have — a long-term social and economic impact, and they have already sparked spin-offs for crime and further victimization,” added Evans.
Though the Ashley Madison breach is still being referred to as a “hack,” implying the perpetrators weren’t from within the company, some reports also suggest that it may have been an inside job, initiated by a former or current employee.