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Blackmailers Demand Bitcoin from Ashley Madison Users

| Published on August 21, 2015 at 09:26 BST
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An American has received a blackmail email demanding payment in bitcoin after user data from the extramarital affair platform Ashley Madison was leaked.

The email, provided to CoinDesk and dated 20th August, was sent by an entity calling itself “Team GrayFlay” and contained the individual’s name and personal address. The user was instructed to send a payment in bitcoin or face exposure.

Publicly available search tools confirm that the customer's email address was used to register an account at Ashley Madison.

Earlier this week, a hacker group operating under the name Impact Team released a trove of data containing account details for approximately 32 million users, including tens of thousands tied to government and corporate email accounts. A second release included the site’s source code as well as emails attributed to Noel Biderman, CEO of Avid Life Media, the company that owns Ashley Madison.

The message stated that the user had seven days after receipt of the email to pay the requested amount.

“Unfortunately your data was leaked in the recent hacking of Ashley Madison and I now have your information. If you would like to prevent me from finding and sharing this information with your significant other send exactly 2.00000054 bitcoins (approx. Value $450 USD) to the following address…”

The message also contained a link to the CoinDesk bitcoin ATM map and bitcoin exchange market LocalBitcoins, suggesting that “if you need help locating a place to purchase BTC you can start here”.

“If you are already divorced then I suggest you think about how this information may impact any ongoing court proceedings,” the message noted. “If you are no longer in a committed relationship then think about how this will affect your social standing amongst family and friends.”

The incident does not appear to be isolated. New Zealand tabloid site Stuff reports that an Auckland man received a message containing identical language, including a warning about the cost of legal representation during a divorce.

It is unclear at present how many more customers have received such messages, though given that the information is publicly available, more blackmail attempts are likely to occur.

The blackmail attempts come shortly after speculation in the media that Ashley Madison users face such risks.

Many observers have criticized Avid Life Media for negligent security practices resulting in the data breach. The company has said that it is working with law enforcement and, according to a recent statement, would "seek to hold the guilty parties accountable to the strictest measures of the law".

Avid Life Media did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Blackmail image via Shutterstock

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the second Impact Team leak contained "millions" of emails attributed to Avid Life Media CEO Noel Biderman. 

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