Making Sense of Security

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Making Sense of Security

Ashley Madison Breach Returns with Extortion Campaign

The recent attack messages use new techniques to extort Bitcoin payments from Ashley Madison users hit in massive 2015 data breach.

Five years after a huge data breach at extramarital affair website Ashley Madison gave criminals access to the credentials of roughly 32 million users, some victims are being hit once again, this time with a highly personalized extortion attempt.

The extortion message includes detailed personal and financial information on the victim and demands a Bitcoin payment (the equivalent of $1,000 on up) to ensure that incriminating details won’t be shared with friends, family, and employers. The message includes two factors that are becoming more popular in criminal attacks: Details of the ransom payment are in an encrypted .PDF file attached to the email, and the .PDF includes a QR code at the top as a way to access payment information.

Both of these newer details are attempts to evade email filters that increasingly target criminal attack content. According to researchers at Vade Secure, which published a blog post on the new attack, the form of the attack is similar to other messages in a wave of “sextortion” attacks that have been ongoing since July 2018.

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