Two possible suicides may be linked to the hacking of adultery website Ashley Madison and the release of its membership data, Canadian police said Monday.
“As of this morning we have two unconfirmed reports of suicides associated to the leak of Ashley Madison customer profiles,” Toronto police Staff Superintendent Bryce Evans told a news conference.
Evans also said the release of stolen emails and user account information from some 32 million members of the Canada-based site is now leading to “spin off” crimes.
Evans pointed to extortion and online scams claiming to provide access to the leaked data and offers to delete it from the web.
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.
Last week, a hacker group identified as the “Impact Team” released emails and user account information of members stolen from the company’s servers.
The hackers also released a second batch of data including corporate emails and sensitive computer source code, and threatened to carry out more attacks.
In an exchange published on Friday by Vice Media’s Motherboard website, the hackers alleged that Ashley Madison and its parent company Avid Life Media were abusing the trust of their users.
“Avid Life Media is like a drug dealer abusing addicts,” they claimed.
The Toronto police along with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police, US Homeland Security and the American FBI are investigating the hack, dubbing the probe “Project Unicorn.”
Evans said Ashley Madison is cooperating with the investigation and police have found “no criminal wrongdoing” by the company.
He said the hack was very sophisticated.
“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,” Evans said.
“The ripple effect of the Impact Team’s action has and will continue to have a longterm social and economic impact,” he said, “and they have already sparked spin offs of crimes and further victimization.”
One scam threatens to expose Ashley Madison clients unless payment of 1.05 bitcoins or Can$300 is received, saying in an email: “Consider how expensive a divorce lawyer is… and then think about how this will affect your social standing amongst family and friends. What will your friends and family think about you?”
Evans noted that the data from the hack has been widely distributed online. “Nobody is going to be able to erase that information now,” he said.
Police offered no details about the two alleged suicides linked to the data breach.
Avid Media meanwhile is offering a Can$500,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of hackers.