Hackers hit cheating site Ashley Madison and threaten to expose users

Cheating website Ashley Madison has been breached by a hacker group claiming the site’s owners defraud users who pay to have their personal information deleted.

A large cache of stolen data belonging to Avid Life Media (ALM), the Toronto-based company behind Ashley Madison and other hookup websites, was reportedly published online Sunday night. As proof of the attack, the hackers leaked the company’s banking and employee records, a map of their internal network, and snippets of user account data, according to security blogger Brian Krebs, who first reported the breach.

In statement early Monday, ALM, which also owns the hookup sites Cougar Life and Established Men, confirmed a “criminal intrusion into [its] customers’ information.”

“We were recently made aware of an attempt by an unauthorized party to gain access to our systems,” the company said. “We immediately launched a thorough investigation utilizing leading forensics experts and other security professionals to determine the origin, nature, and scope of this incident.”

A group calling itself Impact Team took credit for the attack. It said the breach was a response to a $19 fee ALM charges its users to delete their personal information from Ashley Madison, whose tagline is: “Life is short. Have an affair.” According to the hackers, the service is a fraud and the user information isn’t actually purged.

“Full Delete netted ALM $1.7m in revenue in 2014. It’s also a complete lie,” Impact Team wrote in a lengthy manifesto. “Users almost always pay with credit card; their purchase details are not removed as promised, and include real name and address, which is of course the most important information the users want removed.”

"A snippet of the message left behind by the Impact Team." —

“A snippet of the message left behind by the Impact Team.” —

Brian Krebs

 

With ALM’s customer data in hand, Impact Team has reportedly issued the following demand:

“Avid Life Media has been instructed to take Ashley Madison and Established Men offline permanently in all forms, or we will release all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails. The other websites may stay online.”

According to ALM, Ashley Madison has more than 36 million members in 46 countries. It is reportedly the second-largest dating website behind Match.com.

The timing could not be worse for the company, which in April announced plans to raise as much as $200 million with an initial public offering in London later this year.

Photo by Sarah/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Dell Cameron

Dell Cameron

Dell Cameron

Dell Cameron was a reporter at the Daily Dot who covered security and politics. In 2015, he revealed the existence of an American hacker on the U.S. government's terrorist watchlist. He is a co-author of the Sabu Files, an award-nominated investigation into the FBI's use of cyber-informants. He became a staff writer at Gizmodo in 2017.