On Monday morning, the Toronto police held a press conference to talk about the fall-out from and investigation into the Ashley Madison leak. The police asked for help from the "hacking community who engage in discussions on the Dark Web" and said that Ashley Madison parent company Avid Life Media is offering a $500,000 reward to anyone who helps provide information that helps catch their hackers. But the most dramatic news concerned an "unconfirmed" report of the personal toll of the leak.
"As of this morning, we have two unconfirmed reports of suicides associated with the leak of Ashley Madison's customers' profiles," said Toronto police acting staff superintendent Bryce Evans, who then offered no more information about those reports or how they were received. Evans said police "had received that call this morning" and "were going to be looking into it."
Two reports of suicides have popped up, via a skeptical post on Reddit and in Texas, where a San Antonio man whose address appeared in the leak committed suicide Thursday. "It wasn’t clear Friday whether his death had anything to do with the leak," reported MySanAntonio.
As for reports police can confirm, they said Ashley Madison users are being threatened with extortion, showing an email a user had received saying he needed to pay 1.05 Bitcoin or his family and friends would find out he'd been an Ashley Madison users. "Don't pay," said Evans.
Evans provided new information about the hack, saying that Avid Life Media employees first discovered they'd been hacked on July 12, when they arrived at work and a message popped up on their computers telling them to take their site down or risk exposure. The message was accompanied by a song, "Thunderstruck," by AC/DC. (The hackers seem to have the same sense of drama as those that hacked Sony Pictures, popping up a message on their computers featuring a skull and crossbones.)
Ashley Madison hired a private company—Cycura—to do an investigation, and a few days later, the company called the Toronto police. On July 19, the hackers proved they had access to the database by release information about two Ashley Madison clients, from Ontario and Massachusetts.
"Team Impact, I want to make very clear to you that your actions are illegal and won't be tolerated. This is your wake-up call," said Evans who said the Toronto police are working with law enforcement "around the world." A representative from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said the FBI is taking the lead on the network intrusion investigation.
Law enforcement officials were candid about their desire for help from the tech-savvy community that quickly downloaded the documents and started combing through them for information.
"To the hacking community who engage in discussions on the Dark Web and who no doubt have information that could assist with this investigation, we call on you to do the right thing… and reach out to us," said Evans, later mentioning a $500,000 reward from Avid Life Media for help in catching and prosecuting hackers calling themselves "The Impact Team."
At least one reporter in the room was not reassured by the government calling on hackers for help with their investigation. "That might make victims and their families a little uneasy," she said. "How much confidence can they have in your team to find who did this?"