Hackers may have just cost affair website Ashley Madison $200 million

Ashley Madison
Ashley Madison

(Ashley Madison) Hackers leaked a small percentage of Ashley Madison customer details online.

A blackmail cyberattack has hit the affair site Ashley Madison, mere months after the company announced plans to launch a $200 million initial public offering later this year.

The attack was spotted by independent security journalist Brian Krebs on Sunday.

Hackers operating under the name Impact Team used an unspecified method to breach Avid Life Media (ALM), a Toronto-based company that owns Ashley Madison and numerous other "hookup sites," such as Cougar Life and Established Men.

After the breach, Impact Team leaked account data online from a small number of the site's 37 million users. This included the users' real names and addresses.

The leaked data also included maps of ALM internal company servers, employee network-account information, company bank-account data, and salary information.

Bloomberg in April reported that Ashley Madison planned to make an initial public offering in London, hoping to raise as much as $200 million. The IPO was expected to occur later this year. Business Insider later reported that the company was close to canceling its plans in favour of privately paying its shareholders dividends. The data breach all but rules the IPO out completely.

It is likely to heavily shake customer confidence (and hence the company's financial performance) as well as investors' perception of the company, two important factors in any IPO. ALM declined Business Insider's request for comment on how the attack would affect its plans.

ALM has since issued a statement listing the attack is a simple act of "cybervandalism" and has brought in specialists from the security firm Cycura to plug the undisclosed security holes.

Krebs said the weekend attack was designed to protest and punish the site, which the hackers accused of charging for a bogus full-delete service, previously reported on by Ars Technica.

The feature promises to completely purge customers' information from ALM's database for a $19 fee. According to Krebs, however, Impact Team thinks the service is "a complete lie" and doesn't actually delete the paying customers' information.

The hackers have since pledged to continue publishing stolen ALM data online until the firm shuts down Ashley Madison and Established Men.

"Avid Life Media has been instructed to take Ashley Madison and Established Men offline permanently in all forms, or we will release all customer records, including profiles with all the customers' secret sexual fantasies and matching credit-card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails," the hacker's manifesto read, according to Krebs Security. "The other websites may stay online."

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