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Toronto police have appealed to the ‘white hat’ hacker community for help in tracking down Impact Team, the perpetrators of the Ashley Madison data breach, after revealing two people may have taken their own lives due to the leaks.
“Team Impact,” Superintendent Bryce Evans said at a press conference, directly addressing the criminals behind the hack, “I want to make it very clear to you — your actions are illegal and will not be tolerated.”
Evans said the suicide reports were unconfirmed as yet, and it is unknown if it was members of the site or other persons who had been killed. But Toronto Police stressed the “enormous social and economic fallout” caused by the hackers, who published the usernames, real names, street addresses and partial credit card numbers of some 36 million dating site users.
Evans thanked the open source tech community for its help so far, and told journalists that Avid Life Media — owners of Ashley Madison and sister dating site Established Men — is offering a reward of $500,000 to anyone providing information that leads to the identification, arrest or prosecution of the person or people behind the hack.
“You know the Impact Team has crossed the line — do the right thing and reach out to us”
Bryce Evans, Toronto Police
Evans went on to reveal details of the early days of the hack, when Avid Life Media employees came to work on 12 July and powered up their computers to find a “threatening message… accompanied by the song ‘Thunderstruck’ by AC/DC”, warning them to shut down both dating sites immediately. He also warned the public to take heed of the vast number of scams already attempting to monopolise on the security breach. Some are claiming to provide access to the leaked details, while others are offering to delete information about an Ashley Madison client from the internet. “Nobody is going to be able to delete that information,” said Evans, warning that hackers would use the scam as a way to expose a victims’ computer to malware, adware and viruses.
Although the Toronto Police is receiving help from Homeland Security in the US, the FBI, and other agencies around the globe, it has now also publicly appealed to the hacking community to offer its expertise.
“To the hacking community who engage in discussions on the dark web and no doubt have information that could assist this investigation, we are also appealing to you to do the right thing, to acknowledge that this is a unique situation that has caused enormous social and economic fallout,” said Evans. “You know the Impact Team has crossed the line — do the right thing and reach out to us.”
Detective John Menard from the Toronto Police technical crime unit said: “We’re looking at the white hat hackers operating in the dark web and areas we don’t police on a daily basis.” Although details of the crime could not be revealed, given it is still under investigation, Menerd called it “very sophisticated”, while Evans suggested this was unlikely the work of a teenage hacker.
Although Toronto Police referred to the suicide reports as “unconfirmed”, IBTimes in the UK says it has confirmed that a 25-year-old former City of San Antonio police officer took his life days after his work address was found among the leaks. There is no suggestion the two incidents are related, however.