Ashley Madison Hackers' Actions Criminal

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 12:43 p.m. August 24, 2015
Updated: 12:43 p.m. August 31, 2015

As a result of the Ashley Madison hack, Toronto Police and multiple law enforcement agencies in Canada, the United States and beyond have joined forces to find the perpetrators of one of the world’s largest criminal intrusions.

A man in police uniform standing at a  podium.
Acting Staff Superintendent Bryce Evans speaks on the Ashley Madison hack at Toronto Police Headquarters.

Canada-based Avid Life Media operates several online dating sites, including Ashley Madison, for people who are married or in a committed relationship, and Established Men, which connects young women with successful men.

On July 12, when several Avid Life Media employees arrived at work and powered up their computers, a threatening message appeared on their screens, accompanied by the AC/DC song Thunderstruck. The posted threat was directed to Ashley Madison and Established Men clients and it directed Avid Life Media to permanently shut down both sites.

The person (s) who posted the threat identified themselves as “The Impact Team” and they made it clear that failure to comply with their request would lead to the release of the Ashley Madison and Established Men client lists, including names and credit card data.

At a press conference at police headquarters on August 24, Acting Staff Superintendent Bryce Evans said Avid Life Media started an internal investigation, hired a private company and secured the services of Cycura – a firm that was established by some of the leading cyber security experts in the world.

He also said they contacted Toronto Police eight days after the hack.

“When reporting these events to the police, Avid Life advised that the suspects had in fact already made good on the threat by releasing the information of two Ashley Madison clients – one in Mississauga and the other in Brockton, Massachusetts – on July 19 through the internet,” he said. “Despite efforts by Cycura and Toronto Police Service to prevent any further release of client information, The Impact Team released the entire Ashley Madison list of over 30 million members worldwide on August 17 through the internet.”

The Impact Team posted a message, Times Up, after the release of the information and a third message was received on August 19 by Avid Life Media chief executive office Noel Biderman, stating, “Hey Noel, you can admit…it’s real now.” That message was accompanied by the release of his e-mails.

A photo of a message that reads "Avid Life Media has failed to take down ashley madison and established men. We have explained the fraud, deceit and stupidity of ALM and their members. Now everyone gets to see their data. Find someone you know in here? Keep in mind the site is a scam with thousands of fake female profiles. See ashley madiosn fake profile lawsuit; 90-95% of actual users are male. Changes are your man signed up on the world's biggest affair site, but never had one. He just tried to. If that distinction matters. Find yourself self in here? It was ALM that failed you and lied to you. Prosecute them and claim damages. Then move on with your life. Learn lessons and make amends. Embarrassing now, but you'll get over it.
The second threat sent by the hackers calling themselves 'The Impact Team'.

Evans said that while the investigative team has found no criminal wrongdoing involving Avid Life Media, the hackers’ actions are clearly criminal.

“This hack is one of the largest data breaches in the world and is unique in that it exposed tens of millions of people’s personal information, including credit card data, that Avid Life Media had obtained primarily through personal e-mail addresses,” said Evans. “Previous high-profile hacks have infiltrated government sites and those of large corporations. The ripple effect of the hackers’ action has already sparked spin-off crimes and victimization.”

The senior Toronto Police officer is encouraging persons victimized and extorted because of the data base leaks to contact their local law enforcement agencies.

Evans is appealing to the hacking community for their assistance in this case.

Avid Life Media is offering a $500,000 reward to anyone providing information that leads to the identification, arrest and prosecution of the person (s) responsible for the Ashley Madison database leak.

Evans is encouraging anyone with information that that will help to identify “The Impact Team” to contact Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416−222−TIPS (8477), online at, text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637), or Leave A Tip on Facebook, or the Ashley Madison Task Force at (416) 808-2040. Investigators have also set up a Twitter account (@AMCaseTPS) and created the hashtag #AMCaseTPS.

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