Ashley Madison Fallout Threatens To Engulf Military Amid Extortion Claims And $578 Million Lawsuit

The aftershocks of last week's Ashley Madison info breach by a hacking group known as the Impact Team continued over the weekend, with the filing of a $578 million class-action lawsuit by Canadian law firms Strosberg LLP and Charney, Lawyers and Sutts, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of "all Canadians" affected by the data dump, lawyer Ted Charney told The Associated Press.

"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."
Hackers first announced they had stolen the data in July and demanded that Ashley Madison shut down voluntarily in order to prevent its release to the public, which is exactly what happened last week when they released data online that is related to approximately 39 million members of Ashley Madison.

In addition, extortionists have already begun targeting Ashley Madison users in an effort to capitalize on the recent hack, Krebs on Security reported. Although extortion is always a potential problem for anyone who is cheating on his or her spouse, the list of millions of cheaters that was released online makes it easier than ever for random blackmailers to target big names.

"According to security firms and to a review of several emails shared with this author, extortionists already see easy pickings in the leaked Ashley Madison database."
Tom Kellerman, chief cybersecurity officer at Trend Micro, predicts there will be a rise in the number of "virtual shakedowns," including phishing campaigns, ransomware, and Bitcoin payment demands. Kellerman also predicts that attacks against members of the military who used Ashley Madison could target the spouses of people whose information is included in the database.

In fact, the leaked data is potentially devastating for an untold number of U.S. military personnel and could even lead to stolen U.S. secrets, some experts fear. According to The Hill, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Thursday that the Department of Defense is investigating the Ashley Madison leak, following evidence that more than 15,000 of the leaked email addresses were hosted on government and military servers. According to the article, adultery is taken seriously in the military and is a prosecutable offense, with potential punishments including forfeiture of pay, dishonorable discharge, and confinement of up to one year's time.

As we enter the first new week post-hack, the fallout from the growing list of Ashley Madison scandals – and from the website's existence in the first place – is most likely here to stay, at least for now.

[Photo by Carl Court/Staff/Getty Images]