The Ashley Madison Hack is Bad and Getting Worse

Suicides, rewards and conspiracy theories are just the tip of the iceberg.
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Suicides, rewards and conspiracy theories are just the tip of the iceberg.
Ashley Madison hack suicides

Fallout from AshleyMadison.com's hack from hell was already pretty bad — but this is just the beginning.

On Monday, Canadian police revealed they were aware of two deaths possibly related to Impact Team's full-throttle leak of data from nearly 40 million Ashley Madison accounts. The Guardian reports that authorities in Toronto said in a press conference they had "two unconfirmed reports of suicides that are associated because of the leak of Ashley Madison customers’ profiles." Toronto police wouldn't give details about the suicides other than saying that nature of the cheating site was irrelevant to the investigators.

In addition to the tragic news about the suicides, Toronto PD announced that Avid Life Media, which owns Ashley Madison, will offer a $500,000 reward for leads that will aid in finding Impact Team--just under $380,000 in American money. Speaking to the hackers, NBC reports Toronto Police Staff Superintendent Bryce Evans said, "Your actions are illegal and we will not tolerate it."

While Impact Team has been assumed to be a collective by investigators and journalists, maverick programmer and McAfee anti-virus inventor John McAfee has concluded the Ashley Madison hack may have been the work of a disgruntled, female Avid Life employee.

In a post for the International Business Times, McAfee writes that "Ashley Madison was not hacked--the data was stolen by a woman operating on her own." McAfee cites his first IBTimes article, in which "reliable sources within the Dark Web" convinced him Impact Team didn't exist. He goes on to make some questionable claims about profiling the hacker's gender from the wording of Impact Team's manifest, but his argument grows more compelling when he makes points about the types of data found in the 40 gigabytes available. McAfee's 5-item list of eyebrow-raising info includes:

"3. A stock option agreement list, with signed contracts included. The hacker would have had to gain access to the private files of the CEO or the VP of Finance to obtain this material – a job requiring as much time to implement as a hack of the centralised database. Again, of what value would this be considering the hacker had already made off with potentially billions.

"4. IP addresses and current status of every server owned by Avid Life – of which there were many hundreds scattered around the world. Why any hacker would trouble themselves with such a task, considering what was already taken, is mind boggling.

"5. The raw source code for every program Ashley Madison ever wrote. This acquisition would be a monumental task for any hacker and, unless the hacker planned on competing with Ashley Madison, has no value whatsoever."

McAfee says these "are just a few of the many strangely included files that would take even a top notch hacker years to gather, and seem to have little or no value."

McAfee — who, to put it mildly--has a colorful past and was just arrested in early August for DUI in Tennessee — makes debatable assumptions about the hackers based on language use, but he seems to make strong points regarding the unusual depth of the Impact Team's penetration of Avid Life servers. Questions about whether the Ashley Madison hack was an act of personal vengeance or strategic, genius-level work by a hacking team aside, it's clear that some affected by the leak may end up wishing the outcome was merely old-fashioned public humiliation.

One thing is certain: with new revelations cropping up every day, the fallout from the hack is far from over. 

Photos by Carl Court/Getty Images