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Ashley Madison Blackmail Letter Revealed (grahamcluley.com) 228

An anonymous reader writes: Security researcher Graham Cluley says he has been forwarded a blackmail letter, sent to a member of the controversial Ashley Madison adultery website. In the letter the blackmailer says that unless $2,000 worth of bitcoin is paid within 10 days, the recipient's wife, friends and colleagues will be informed of his misdemeanors. In a threatening twist, the letter goes on to give personal details of another victim who refused to pay the blackmailers, and how his personal life and work were targeted as a result. Cluley's advice to recipients is not to pay the blackmailers, but to tell the U.S. Postal Inspectors Service.
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Ashley Madison Blackmail Letter Revealed

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  • by zephvark ( 1812804 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @10:42AM (#51343439)

    >unless $2000 worth of bitcoin is not paid

    ...I'm pretty sure he can afford to go ahead and not pay it, then. They apparently offered to screw him over only if he paid.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      >unless $2000 worth of bitcoin is not paid

      ...I'm pretty sure he can afford to go ahead and not pay it, then. They apparently offered to screw him over only if he paid.

      You should recognize this as the Piranha Brothers [wikipedia.org]' "Other Operation," in which they select a victim and threaten to not beat him up if he doesn't pay them.

      • by sconeu ( 64226 )

        Clearly, the blackmailers need to move to the "Other Other Operation"...

        DINSDALE!!!!

        • Clearly, the blackmailers need to move to the "Other Other Operation"...

          This, for the Piranha Brothers, was the turning point.

  • This is what you get.

    This is one of the few cases where I don't support the activities of any party involved; the hackers for what they did, the website for providing/promoting such blatant infidelity, nor the people who use the site.

    However, in this case, the people I support the least are the people who took their marriage vows so lightly they're using a website to cheat. It's absolutely disgusting. You get what you deserve. What to avoid the collateral damage; don't cheat. But, since you're past tha
    • by Anonymous Coward

      No one asked you to support it. This isn't about supporting or being against adulterous behaviors, but rather how willing we are as a society to protect privacy. Unless a crime was committed they have as much right as you to not be threatened.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by DarkOx ( 621550 )

        At least here in Virgina adultery is still in fact a crime, though rarely prosecuted unfortunately. As it should be, because I does in fact harm society at large and the party who is cheated on is essentially being defrauded with regard to their marriage contract.

        Personally I would like to see the state go after some of the AM users whose actual cheating can otherwise be corroborated. I think it would send a good message, and the fine is $250 bucks so its not ruin anyone. Sadly it wont happen since the l

        • At least here in Virgina adultery is still in fact a crime

          How many laws have you violated today? I doubt that it's zero.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by houghi ( 78078 )

          I would like the state to bud out what I do with my sexlife and if I cheat or not. If my wife has an issue, she can sue and get all the monies, but is should NOT be a default.

          Next the state will decide who I can and can not merry and how often I MUST have sex with said person.

          Adultery happens, get over it. If you don't do it, that is great. If your SO does not do it either, even better. But do not say what I should or should not do, even though I am against cheating on a personal level.

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@worl d 3 . net> on Thursday January 21, 2016 @12:57PM (#51344481) Homepage

            You can have all that. Simply don't get married, instead offer your partner a contract, or just agree to live together and share stuff as long as it suits you.

            Marriage is just a pre-packaged contract between two people, with standard terms. They are popular because they are cheaper than getting a custom contract drawn up, and if there is a dispute it's generally cheaper and easier to resolve because the courts are well versed in the terms. It's better for people who are not lawyers too, because the terms are well advertised and understood, unlike a contract full of legalese.

            Unfortunately for you, many people are not willing to accept custom relationship contracts. Marriage is perceived as basically fair, and in most developed nations it more or less objectively is, so any desire to avoid those terms is seen as a desire for one side to benefit at the expense of the other.

            • Having sex with someone else is immoral if you are married or not, if you are in a relationship, which is understood to be exclusive. I do not think it is any worse morally to cheat if you are just in a relationship, or married.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Marriage is just a pre-packaged contract between two people, with standard terms [...] the terms are well advertised and understood [...] in most developed nations it more or less objectively is [fair]

              Oh, hell, no. It's a pre-packaged contract, but the terms are anything but well-advertised or understood, and it's blatantly unfair in many cases. You say an oath, which isn't binding, and sign a piece of paper, which is - despite the paper containing no description of the terms of the contract. The terms also change over time: divorces and marital disputes are judged by the family law of today, not what it was when the couple got married. In some jurisdictions you can even find yourself bound by the co

            • You can have all that

              No you can't. The same state that regulates the terms of marriage is the state that does not honor those contracts. That was a big problem for the gay community, that despite a increasing number of places around the world recognising their partnership they were treated legally differently than a married couple without any recourse.

              Take a trip to an immigration department in Germany to bring in your "partner" of 20 years. The only question will be "Why did you say partner? You mean you're not married? Well t

          • by meeotch ( 524339 )

            Next the state will decide who I can and can not merry and how often I MUST have sex with said person.

            Oh no... Santa? Is that you? Wh - what are you doing to Mommy?

          • INext the state will decide who I can and can not merry and how often I MUST have sex with said person.

            I wish may state did that, then I could show the legislation to my wife every time she refuses. Even if the state legislates minimal contact, I'm bound to be doubling what I am getting now :)

        • Maybe you should move to Salem, Massachusetts, and bring back witch burning while you're at it ...

          If you're so hot and bothered with other people's lives and think that they deserve to be punished, then GET OFF YOUR LAZY ASS AND REPORT THEM. The data is all there, free for you to access.

          Of course, the only thing that would happen if you made a big stink about it is that the whole internet would laugh at you - kind of like what's happening here today, but more ...

          • Maybe you should move to Salem, Massachusetts, and bring back witch burning while you're at it ...

            Oddly I had to look up if adultery where a crime in my state because I didn't know. Apparently it's a misdemeanor and can be used to deny a no fault divorce which would allow you to seek alimony. Massachusetts adultery is a felony and you could serve up to four years in prison.

            • Has anyone been convicted in the past 50 years? In WI it's supposedly a felony too.
            • Oddly I had to look up if adultery where a crime in my state because I didn't know. Apparently it's a misdemeanor and can be used to deny a no fault divorce which would allow you to seek alimony. Massachusetts adultery is a felony and you could serve up to four years in prison.

              WTF. And bloody Americans tell everyone, whether they want to listen or not, that they live in the freest country in the world.

              Admittedly adultery would carry severe risk of damage to certain body parts for me, but the state wouldn't give a damn about it. Exactly as it should be.

              • My wife told me once "If we ever get divorced I'm keeping the penis, you'll just have to learn to pee sitting down." sadly I didn't have a good come back at the time.

          • Not to be pedantic, but nobody was burned in Salem. They were hanged, with the exception of Giles Corey who got crushed under rocks.
        • And here we have a prime example of a member of the American Taliban.

          I guess you really like the ISIS guys and how they enforce social norms too, right?

        • I have a question? If you are married and your partner refuses to have sex with you on a regular basis, or uses sex to get you to do things for them, are they in violation of that contract? Since you cannot go to someone for that service.

          This is nonsense, you cannot force someone to love you, or find you attractive, no matter what the law says. That is the real reason that adultery is bad, because it hurts the other person, it shows that you do not love them, and that hurts. The reason it is not enforced in

          • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

            Marriage used to have real property and public order implications because it used to be almost a major transaction. The reason it was illegal was due to that as much as due to morality.

            Note that our views on love and marriage are anachronistic against the time period where these laws were enacted.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Most of the membership was closet gay people who didn't want to be outed. Especially since being gay is punishable by death in some countries and cultures.

      So maybe you can get off your high horse and actually try to understand the different sides of the issue for once.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Penguinisto ( 415985 )

      I have zero sympathy for a cheater who gets one of these letters. If you betray your spouse, then you can suck on the consequences.

      On the other hand, extortion is still an illegal act, no matter how righteous it may look when you do it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It's tempting to blame the victims here given the advertised purpose of the website but keep in mind that making generalizations about any group isn't going to accurately describe all of the members of that group. One of my friends was a victim of this breach and received a blackmail letter. She joined the site because she was worried her husband was cheating and wanted to see if he had an account. (He didn't but it turned out he was cheating and she caught him eventually by other means.) After the breach s

        • It's tempting to blame the victims here given the advertised purpose of the website but keep in mind that making generalizations about any group isn't going to accurately describe all of the members of that group.

          I agree, which is why I specified actual cheaters, as opposed to the gawkers, the sleuths, the open-marriage types (who probably wouldn't care if his/her spouse found out), etc.

          • I agree, which is why I specified actual cheaters, as opposed to the gawkers, the sleuths, the open-marriage types (who probably wouldn't care if his/her spouse found out), etc.

            No while the open marriage types may not care that their wife/husband found out. The blackmail letter threatened to contact, workmates, and other family members.

            The blackmailers do not care about the (moral)"crimes" committed by the blackmailee, They are opportunist criminals seeking to make a buck (bitcoin)

      • Mod me down all you want, kids, but you know I'm right. ;)

    • WOW a shashdotter using a moral line.
      Really???
      No one is asking for you or anyone to support.
      Everyone and anyone has the rights to live without being subjected to harm from 3rd parties.

      Wife cheats on her husband or husband cheats on the wife, does not really matter.
      Might be good reason for it, maybe, no reason for it, but, no need to subject both parties to harm.

      and a simple observation ...

      don't waste time paying the blackmailers, seems like you'll get demand letters for ever

    • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @11:12AM (#51343625) Homepage

      This is one of the few cases where I don't support the activities of any party involved; the hackers for what they did, the website for providing/promoting such blatant infidelity, nor the people who use the site.

      Meh, people have been screwing around on one another for as long as they've had one another.

      Putting aside the underlying puritanical bullshit, who broke the law here? Yes, that's right, the hackers and the extortionists. Wah wah wah, people have affairs and they'e evil people .. such moralizing bullshit. Neither Ashley Madison nor the people using the site broke any laws.

      And I've long since stopped thinking the opinion of a bunch of hand-wringing church ladies is of any consequence. It's just people acting like they have authority over what others do. People who think infidelity will stop due to their own loud self-righteousness ... well, just as often those assholes find themselves getting caught doing the same fucking thing.

      Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, otherwise shut the fuck up. It's disgusting that you feel your opinion about what people you don't know is worth a damn, or that it has anything to do with you.

      Oh, wait, is your entire morality based on retribution against strangers because you feel they deserve it? That's not a fucking morality, that's being a self-righteous ass.

      What next, wanting us stoned for idolatry? Go stone yourself.

      • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

        Putting aside the underlying puritanical bullshit, who broke the law here? Yes, that's right, the hackers and the extortionists. Wah wah wah, people have affairs and they'e evil people .. such moralizing bullshit. Neither Ashley Madison nor the people using the site broke any laws.

        That isn't true, depending on what state you live in! Adultery is absolutely a crime in Virgina and probably other states. It should be a crime everywhere. If you are committing adultery and you are violating your marriage contract. At least if you spouse is ignorant of this its likely they are investing in the partnership in ways that would be against their interest if the marriage isn't sustainable. If they were aware of your misbehavior and would stop doing that in light of it you have induced them

        • Putting aside the underlying puritanical bullshit, who broke the law here? Yes, that's right, the hackers and the extortionists. Wah wah wah, people have affairs and they'e evil people .. such moralizing bullshit. Neither Ashley Madison nor the people using the site broke any laws.

          That isn't true, depending on what state you live in! Adultery is absolutely a crime in Virgina and probably other states.

          Utah is another such state. Because of its polygamous past, the US Congress forced the state constitution to legally define marriage as being between one man and one woman (though part of that got thrown out with same-sex marriage now legal nation-wide). The state constitution also makes any extra-marital affairs illegal (though this is rarely enforced).

          It should be a crime everywhere. If you are committing adultery and you are violating your marriage contract. At least if you spouse is ignorant of this its likely they are investing in the partnership in ways that would be against their interest if the marriage isn't sustainable. If they were aware of your misbehavior and would stop doing that in light of it you have induced them to act against their own interest by misrepresentation. That is basically the text book definition of FRAUD.

          We don't tolerate legally or societal fraud elsewhere there is no justifiable reason it should be tolerated with regard to marriage. The reason it is tolerated is because progressives hate the idea of the family unit. Its a little to autonomous and independent for them so they do what they can break it down including stacking the legal framework against it.

          That's a good view; marriage is a contract. If you violate the contract, your partner can void the contract without prejudice (meaning, in part, that prenup

          • And yet that definition is inherently unfair to those couples who WANT to be married AND have an open relationship. Most of the "successful" open relationships I know of (success being defined as everyone is aware, it doesn't cause drama / jealousy, etc) is within the boundaries of a legal marriage. The marriage actually adds quite a bit of stability to their lives, keeps the partners from totally going off the rails, and gives them a foundation to return to. This isn't cheating; they don't hide anything
        • At least if you spouse is ignorant of this its likely they are investing in the partnership in ways that would be against their interest if the marriage isn't sustainable. If they were aware of your misbehavior and would stop doing that in light of it you have induced them to act against their own interest by misrepresentation. That is basically the text book definition of FRAUD.

          No it is not.

          From USLEGAL.com:Fraud is generally defined in the law as an intentional misrepresentation of material existing fact made by one person to another with knowledge of its falsity and for the purpose of inducing the other person to act, and upon which the other person relies with resulting injury or damage.

          Note the "inducing the other person to act" and "resulting injury or damage."

          The reason it is tolerated is because progressives hate the idea of the family unit. Its a little to autonomous and independent for them so they do what they can break it down including stacking the legal framework against it.

          Utter fucking nonsense.

        • Sure, and ISIS will stone you for adultery. I don't respect their authority either. See, your religion doesn't confer an obligation on me.

          I'm not defending adultery ... do it and deal with it if you get caught. Not my damned problem. I've never done it, but I'm not such an ass as to believe I have the right to make it a crime.

          But calling it fraud as a fucking crime? Yeah, go beat your wife with a rod no bigger than your thumb. Force your daughter to marry her rapist.

          So, I'll tell you what ... if you p

        • So your claiming that Dwight D Eisenhower hated the idea of the family unit? People like yourself show a very sad lack of historical knowledge and perspective; before Fox News and Rush / O'rielly . etc, there was this thing called the Progressive Republican Platform. [ucsb.edu] Turn off the biased TV, and learn some history. Do you also throw around terms like "libtard" and "cuckservative"?

          "In all those things which deal with people, be liberal, be human. In all those things which deal with people's money, or th
        • In what "marriage contract" does it say, "You may not "cheat" on your spouse."? I looked around and I couldn't find this "marriage contract" of which you speak. Will you please show me where I signed on the dotted line? I've observed some marriages where the Preacher Man says something like, "you shall foresake all others" as part of the vows, but certainly not all, and you could make a case for this being a pretty vague and unenforceable clause.

          But the fact is, the vows are a religious issue and "marriage"

        • Adultery is absolutely a crime in Virgina

          It's spelled "vagina". Does that mean nudging the fudge and tickling the tonsils don't count?

        • It should be a crime everywhere. If you are committing adultery and you are violating your marriage contract.

          Since when is contract violation a crime rather than a civil dispute?

      • Putting aside the underlying puritanical bullshit, who broke the law here? Yes, that's right, the hackers and the extortionists.

        Depends on where it happened there are still plenty of states in the US (around 20) and other countries where adultery is a crime. It's a class c misdemeanor in my state so a small fine but it can be used against you in divorce proceedings to get alimony.

      • Actually adultery is still on the books as a criminal offense in many states, particularly in the south
        But realistically, it's never (well hardly ever) prosecuted..

        It will, however, still get you tossed from the military
      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        Meh, people have been screwing around on one another for as long as they've had one another.

        Putting aside the underlying puritanical bullshit, who broke the law here? Yes, that's right, the hackers and the extortionists. Wah wah wah, people have affairs and they'e evil people .. such moralizing bullshit. Neither Ashley Madison nor the people using the site broke any laws.

        Yes, but remember those who used Ashley Madison set themselves up for this. No one forced them to use that service, they did so of their own accord knowing they were cheating on their partners.

        I have no sympathy for them.

        However the consequences that the blackmailee's want to avoid (no, I cant call them victims) is the financial consequences of their spouses finding out. They signed a legal agreement that gives them some financial liability, especially if they have children. This is what the cheaters

    • Things like this always remind of movies like "taken".

      It's all fun and games until they pick a serial killer that hears god's voice telling him to punish the wicked and is using the site to lure sinners to a horrible death.

    • However, in this case, the people I support the least are the people who took their marriage vows so lightly they're using a website to cheat. It's absolutely disgusting. You get what you deserve. What to avoid the collateral damage; don't cheat. But, since you're past that point; you might as well fess up to it; and make sure you tell your family you're only coming clean about it due to a threat of blackmail. It'll make them see your character for what it really is.

      I know a couple of acquaintances (not well but I do know them) who cheated on their wives with co-workers. This has nothing to do with Ashley Madison. In neither case did the wife have any idea. Both guys felt guilt-ridden about cheating, so they decided to come clean. In both cases the marriages were over on the spot. In one case the guy literally got asked by his wife to leave their house immediately and I know this because the guy he stayed with for a while is a friend of mine, not just an acquainta

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Funny, Ive never cheated, but I managed to outgrow the "holier than thou" attitude when I disavowed Christianity and returned to being an atheist.

      It's attitudes like yours that make it so easy to blackmail people. Ditto for inflaming the situation in individual cases rather than trying to work out a solution that's in the best interests of everyone. In other words, self-righteous assholes like you are a big part of the problem.

      When you writ4

      Quite frankly, screw everyone all around in this ordeal. It's disgusting we're still talking about this.

      it makes me ask if you're secretly a masochist, because if you're

      • I suggest you look into Christian Atheism. [wikipedia.org] It's an interesting idea for those of us who think that the "teachings of Jesus" have many good ideas yet reject the idea of a interventionist God. You know, those ideas like "do unto others", helping the poor, don't covet others possessions, etc.
        • You know, those ideas like "do unto others"

          Does that mean that if she's screwing her tennis instructor I have to screw him too? I'd much rather bonk that chubby redhead from HR with the blouse like a photo finish in a Zeppelin race.

          • LOL, having to have sex with the same person is far more like Old Testament King Solomon's idea of cutting a baby in half...but if that was the actual "law", then any 3rd party might really never want to be in an affair with a married person haha
      • Funny, Ive never cheated, but I managed to outgrow the "holier than thou" attitude when I disavowed Christianity and returned to being an atheist.

        Hear, hear.

        It's attitudes like yours that make it so easy to blackmail people.

        It's attitude like his which are causing the Millenials to abandon Christianity. And for good reason. How ironic is it that the religion centered on the guy who said "do not judge lest thee be judged" is full of the most judgmental, self-righteous assholes on this side of the planet?

    • So, you say that women do not cheat? I wonder all those cheating man [according to feminist 90 % at least] - with who are they cheating? Goats? Or are there 1000 super women on earth that can have 100 000 000 lovers each? Remember, when the scandal came out it was shown that 90 or more percent of the users of the site are men and everyone was like "see how terrible men are, bloody cheaters" , was I the only one that asked the question above?

      I am so fed up with this crap!!! And your user name suggest you are

      • Women I think probably cheat at least as much as men. They just don't need websites to do it, because it's much easier for them to find partners to cheat with.

        There have been genetic studies which have found that something like 15% of the population in western countries (I think Britain was where one study was done) does not have the father they thought they did, meaning that their mother cheated, while ovulating. Other studies have found that women are much more likely to stray when they are ovulating.

    • What you fail to grasp is that blackmail can be used to gain things instead of just money. It can, for example, be used to alter government policy, or deter police investigations. That's the whole purpose of honeytraps in the intelligence services. If you think leading a virtuous life means blackmail won't affect you, you're not thinking creatively enough.
    • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

      Considering the number of actual women on Ashley Madison, his wife can sleep well, there is no way he cheated on her that way.

  • Don't Pay (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Infiniti2000 ( 1720222 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @10:45AM (#51343467)
    They will continue to blackmail you. Why wouldn't they when so successful the first time? It's not like they're trustworthy or anything. If you're stupid enough to get involved with Ashley Madison in the first place, then just fess up to your wife and family and deal with the consequences. But, in the end, most of us will have no sympathy for either the scumbags who use Ashley Madison or those who blackmail them.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 21, 2016 @10:53AM (#51343515)

    It's interesting that in the letter, the blackmailer provides no information about the recipient apart from his name and address. He lists all of the information about his prior victim, but my guess is that it's all part of his ruse. I suspect that the websites are fake and the phone number is a line straight to the blackmailer, who will corroborate the story whenever any of the many recipients of his letters call.

    This requires more money to set up than an email, but the blackmailer knows that ``The wicked flee when no man pursueth."

  • n a threatening twist, the letter goes on to give personal details of another victim who refused to pay the blackmailers, and how his personal life and work were targeted as a result.

    Unless what purportedly happened to the "other victim" is verifiable, this is no different than what one used to read in an old fashioned chain letter. Those would invariably tell you about the riches and good fortune that had happened to (named) people who forwarded the letter to x numbers of their friends; then spell out all the troubles and misfortunes experienced by other (named) individuals who'd failed to pass the letter along within the requisite period of time. It was all imaginary nonsense.

  • While being an active user of Ashley Madison may indicate an intent to cheat, a vanishingly small amount of men are successfully cheating with women who use the site.

    The site only sells the fantasy of cheating with their bots.

    • by werfele ( 611119 )

      While being an active user of Ashley Madison may indicate an intent to cheat, a vanishingly small amount of men are successfully cheating with women who use the site.

      The site only sells the fantasy of cheating with their bots.

      Yes, if it's safe to assume that a man who already has a mistress wouldn't pay for the site, registering for Ashley Madison is pretty good evidence that a mad did not actually cheat on his wife. There were 39 million men registered, and only perhaps about 12,000 women using the site.

      • ...registering for Ashley Madison is pretty good evidence that a mad did not actually cheat on his wife.

        No, but it's pretty good evidence that he wants to.

      • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:4, Interesting)

        by swb ( 14022 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @01:22PM (#51344659)

        I would wager that the kind of person who couldn't cheat without a web site couldn't cheat with Ashley Madison even if it wasn't a complete fraud, either.

        They're probably not attractive or charismatic enough to attract a partner to begin with.

  • Amature Night (Score:5, Informative)

    by JBMcB ( 73720 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @11:10AM (#51343615)

    You don't send blackmail letters IN THE MAIL.

    This is now a federal crime, and the post office inspectors office, and probably the FBI, gets involved. Since this is in the news, they will probably be very interested in this case, as well.

    • Only if they want to investigate though. It's still a relatively small crime if it's just one blackmailer for $2000 against one person. It only becomes a big enough deal to pay attention if it's something big like the Ashley Madison case.

  • Use a white envelope.

    Still.... I wouldn't want to go toe-to-toe with the postmaster general.... he checks his blood sugar and checks it often...

  • US Postal Inspectors Service.

    It really is called USPIS? I thought Brooklyn Nine Nine made that up.

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