The Ashley Madison hack, which exposed the identities of millions of people who use the adultery website, has led to two unconfirmed reports of suicide, Toronto police said in a press conference Monday.
Toronto Police Acting Staff Superintendent Bryce Evans said the hackers, who refer to themselves as the Impact Team, released the entire Ashley Madison client list, which boasts more than 30 million users. He said there are confirmed cases of people attempting to extort the website's users by threatening to expose them unless they're paid off. He did not offer additional information on the suicides.
Evans explained the breach, detailing how on July 12, 2015, employees of Avid Dating Life Inc. and Avid Life Media Inc., the Canadian companies behind Ashley Madison, logged on to their computers and were met with a threatening message on their screens accompanied by AC/DC's song "Thunderstruck."
"The hack is one of the largest data breaches in the world," Evans said. "This is affecting all of us. The social impact behind this leak — we're talking about families, we're talking about children, we're talking about wives, their male partners."
Toronto police said the company behind Ashley Madison is offering a $500,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the hackers.
Evans addressed the hackers directly saying their actions are "illegal and will not be tolerated. ... This is your wake-up call."
Last week, two Ontario-based law firms filed a $578 million class-action lawsuit on behalf of Canadians who subscribed to Ashley Madison. The lawsuit targets Avid Dating Life Inc. and Avid Life Media Inc.
The plaintiff in the case is Eliot Shore, an Ottawa widower who said he registered on the website in search of companionship after his wife died of breast cancer, according to a statement from attorneys Ted Charney and David Robins. He said he never cheated on his wife and never met anyone from the website.
The suit claims that privacy was breached when the hackers accessed Ashley Madison's website in July 2015 and downloaded private information such as names, email addresses, and message history. The lawsuit isn't being brought against the hackers.
"The sensitivity of the information is so extreme and the repercussions of this breach are so extreme, it puts the damages faced by members in a completely different category of class-action suits," Charney told the Associated Press.
Mary Ann Georgantopoulos is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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