Wives of Ashley Madison users receive blackmail letters at home
Last summer, adultery website Ashley Madison was hacked in one of the most high-profile and sordid cybercrimes of the year.
The website, whose tag line is "Life is short, have an affair", claimed to have 1.2 million British users - mostly men hoping to have affairs through the site. Hackers exposed the names and personal details of all its members, including addresses, ages, phone numbers, credit card details and even sexual fantasies of users.
The story has now taken a more sinister twist - a blackmailer has started sending threatening letters in the post to the wives of the alleged cheaters.
"In the last week or so, people have started receiving letters addressed to Mrs. X. Some husbands have intercepted these, but at least one woman has opened them," said British security blogger and expert Graham Cluley. "Obviously getting a letter in your home is more terrifying than an email."
Victims of the blackmail attempt have sent their letters in to Cluley, who said they were all identical in wording, except for the names used. The letters were postmarked from the American state of Virginia and so far, only American users seem to have received them.
The letter starts: "Dear Mrs [Name]. I am afraid this letter contains bad news." It goes on to disclose that her husband was a member of an adultery website, and threatens to tell her family and friends about this, if she did not pay up $2500 in bitcoin.
Cluley has received confirmation from several other victims, although nobody has admitted to paying up yet.
One of the wives who received the letter wrote: "I'm a wife and received my letter today informing me that my husband is a member of AM. He apparently already got his letter but disposed of it without me knowing. This stuff is crazy! I'm not paying. Expose the cheating bastard to whomever the blackmailer decides. My letter was post marked Feb 22, 2016 from [Virginia]. BTW, hubby admitted to being a member. That's enough for this wife!"
Cluley said that he was able to track the Bitcoin addresses the blackmailer provides in the letters to see if any money had been paid into the account, but he came up empty. "My view is it’s a desperate step being taken because the initial blackmail wasn’t working," Cluley said.
Scientists working in a top secret defence laboratory in the UK and a female MP were among hundreds of public servants whose personal details were published online in August.
In total, information regarding 124 civil servants, 92 Ministry of Defence staff, around 50 police officers, 56 NHS workers, 65 local education and school staff and 1,716 people at universities and further education colleges were leaked.
"It’s one of the most extraordinary data breaches that’s ever happened, because the impact on people's personal lives is so huge," Cluley said. "The irony is there were no real women on the site. They had a huge number it appears were just bots."