[This is Part III in a series on research conducted for a recent Hulu documentary on the 2015 hack of marital infidelity website AshleyMadison.com.]
In 2019, a Canadian company called Defiant Tech Inc. pleaded guilty to running LeakedSource[.]com, a service that sold access to billions of passwords and other data exposed in countless data breaches. KrebsOnSecurity has learned that the owner of Defiant Tech, a 32-year-old Ontario man named Jordan Evan Bloom, was hired in late 2014 as a developer for the marital infidelity site AshleyMadison.com. Bloom resigned from AshleyMadison citing health reasons in June 2015 — less than one month before unidentified hackers stole data on 37 million users — and launched LeakedSource three months later.
[This is Part II of a story published here last week on reporting that went into a new Hulu documentary series on the 2015 Ashley Madison hack.]
It was around 9 p.m. on Sunday, July 19, when I received a message through the contact form on KrebsOnSecurity.com that the marital infidelity website AshleyMadison.com had been hacked. The message contained links to confidential Ashley Madison documents, and included a manifesto that said a hacker group calling itself the Impact Team was prepared to leak data on all 37 million users unless Ashley Madison and a sister property voluntarily closed down within 30 days.
When the marital infidelity website AshleyMadison.com learned in July 2015 that hackers were threatening to publish data stolen from 37 million users, the company’s then-CEO Noel Biderman was quick to point the finger at an unnamed former contractor. But as a new documentary series on Hulu reveals [SPOILER ALERT!], there was just one problem with that theory: Their top suspect had killed himself more than a year before the hackers began publishing stolen user data.
A story published here on July 12 about a new sextortion-based phishing scheme that invokes a real password used by each recipient has become the most-read piece on KrebsOnSecurity since this site launched in 2009. And with good reason — sex sells (the second most-read piece here was my 2015 scoop about the Ashley Madison hack).
But beneath the lurid allure of both stories lies a more unsettling reality: It has never been easier for scam artists to launch convincing, targeted phishing and extortion scams that are automated on a global scale. And given the sheer volume of hacked and stolen personal data now available online, it seems almost certain we will soon witness many variations on these phishing campaigns that leverage customized data elements to enhance their effectiveness.
Last month, KrebsOnSecurity posted an exclusive story about emails leaked from AshleyMadison that suggested the company’s former chief technology officer Raja Bhatia hacked into a rival firm in 2012. Now, an attorney for the former executive is threatening a libel lawsuit against this author unless the story is retracted.
AshleyMadison.com, an online cheating service whose motto is “Life is Short, Have an Affair,” is offering a $500,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the individual or group of people responsible for leaking the highly personal information on the company’s more than 30 million users.
People who cheat on their partners are always open to extortion by the parties involved. But when the personal details of millions of cheaters get posted online for anyone to download — as is the case with the recent hack of infidelity hookup site AshleyMadison.com — random blackmailers are bound to pounce on the opportunity.
Many news sites and blogs are reporting that the data stolen last month from 37 million users of AshleyMadison.com — a site that facilitates cheating and extramarital affairs — has finally been posted online for the world to see. In the past 48 hours, several huge dumps of data claiming to be the actual AshleyMadison database have turned up online. But there are precious few details in them that would allow one to verify these claims, and the company itself says it so far sees no indication that the files are legitimate.