When the marital infidelity web site AshleyMadison.com discovered in July 2015 that hackers had been threatening to publish knowledge stolen from 37 million customers, the corporate’s then-CEO Noel Biderman was fast to level the finger at an unnamed former contractor. However as a brand new documentary sequence on Hulu reveals [SPOILER ALERT!], there was only one downside with that principle: Their high suspect had killed himself greater than a yr earlier than the hackers started publishing stolen person knowledge.
The brand new documentary, The Ashley Madison Affair, begins airing as we speak on Hulu in the USA and on Disney+ in the UK. The sequence options interviews with safety consultants and journalists, Ashley Madison executives, victims of the breach and jilted spouses.
The sequence additionally touches on stunning new particulars unearthed by KrebsOnSecurity and Jeremy Bullock, a knowledge scientist who labored with the present’s producers on the Warner Bros. manufacturing firm Wall to Wall Media. Bullock had spent many hours poring over the a whole bunch of hundreds of emails that the Ashley Madison hackers stole from Biderman and printed on-line in 2015.
Wall to Wall reached out in July 2022 about collaborating with Bullock after KrebsOnSecurity printed A Retrospective on the 2015 Ashley Madison Breach. That piece explored how Biderman — who’s Jewish — had turn out to be the goal of concerted harassment campaigns by anti-Semitic and far-right teams on-line within the months main as much as the hack.
Whoever hacked Ashley Madison had entry to all worker emails, however they solely launched Biderman’s messages — three years value. Apropos of my retrospective report, Bullock discovered that an ideal many messages in Biderman’s inbox had been belligerent and anti-Semitic screeds from a former Ashley Madison worker named William Brewster Harrison.
The messages present that Harrison was employed in March 2010 to assist promote Ashley Madison on-line, however the messages additionally reveal Harrison was closely concerned in serving to to create and domesticate phony feminine accounts on the service.
There may be proof to counsel that in 2010 Harrison was directed to harass the proprietor of Ashleymadisonsucks.com into closing the location or promoting the area to Ashley Madison.
Ashley Madison’s mum or dad firm — Toronto-based Avid Life Media — filed a trademark infringement grievance in 2010 that succeeded in revealing a person named Dennis Bradshaw because the proprietor. However after being knowledgeable that Bradshaw was not topic to Canadian trademark legal guidelines, Avid Life provided to purchase AshleyMadisonSucks.com for $10,000.
When Bradshaw refused to promote the area, he and his then-girlfriend had been topic to an unrelenting marketing campaign of on-line harassment and blackmail. It now seems these assaults had been perpetrated by Harrison, who despatched emails from completely different accounts on the free electronic mail service Vistomail pretending to be Bradshaw, his then-girlfriend and their buddies.
[As the documentary points out, the domain AshleyMadisonSucks.com was eventually transferred to Ashley Madison, which then shrewdly used it for advertising and to help debunk theories about why its service was supposedly untrustworthy].
Harrison even went after Bradshaw’s lawyer and spouse, itemizing them each on an internet site he created known as Contact-a-CEO[.]com, which Harrison used to besmirch the identify of main firms — together with a number of previous employers — all entities he believed had slighted him or his household not directly. The positioning additionally claimed to incorporate the names, addresses and telephone numbers of high CEOs.
An exhaustive evaluation of domains registered to the varied Vistomail pseudonyms utilized by Harrison exhibits he additionally ran Bash-a-Business[.]com, which Harrison devoted to “all these sorry ass company executives on the market profiting out of your onerous work, organs, lives, concepts, intelligence, and wallets.” Copies of the location at archive.org present it was the work of somebody calling themselves “The Chaos Creator.”
Will Harrison was terminated as an Ashley Madison worker in November 2011, and by early 2012 he’d turned his appreciable harassment expertise squarely towards the corporate. Ashley Madison’s long-suspected military of faux feminine accounts got here to the fore in August 2012 after the previous intercourse employee turned activist and blogger Maggie McNeill published screenshots apparently taken from Ashley Madison’s inner techniques suggesting that a big proportion of the feminine accounts on the service had been computer-operated bots.
Ashley Madison’s executives understood that solely a handful of staff on the time would have had entry to the techniques wanted to provide the screenshots McNeill printed on-line. In a single change on Aug. 16, 2012, Ashley Madison’s director of IT was requested to provide an inventory of all firm staff with omnipotent administrator entry.
“Who or what’s [email protected]?,” Biderman requested, after being despatched an inventory of 9 electronic mail addresses.
“It seems to be the e-mail tackle Will used for his profiles,” the IT director replied.
“And his entry was by no means shut off till as we speak?,” requested the corporate’s common counsel Mike Dacks.
What prompted the information scientist Bullock to achieve out had been gobs of anti-Semitic diatribes from Harrison, who had taken to labeling Biderman and others “grasping Jew bastards.”
“So good luck, I’m certain we’ll discuss once more quickly, however for now, Ive obtained higher issues within the oven,” Harrison wrote to Biderman after his employment contract with Ashley Madison was terminated. “Simply bear in mind I outsmarted you final time and I’ll outsmart and out maneuver you this time too, by preserving myself far far-off from the motion and simply having fun with the sideline view, cheering for the opposition.”
Harrison signed his threatening missive with the salutation, “We’re legion,” suggesting that no matter comeuppance he had in retailer for Ashley Madison would come from a wide range of instructions and nameless hackers.
The leaked Biderman emails present that Harrison made good on his threats, and that within the months that adopted Harrison started focusing on Biderman and different Ashley Madison executives with menacing nameless emails and spoofed telephone calls laced with profanity and anti-Semitic language.
However on Mar. 5, 2014, Harrison dedicated suicide by taking pictures himself within the head with a handgun. This reality was apparently unknown to Biderman and different Ashley Madison executives greater than a yr later when their July 2015 hack was first revealed.
Does Harrison’s premature suicide rule him out as a suspect within the 2015 hack? Who’s The Chaos Creator, and what else transpired between Harrison and Ashley Madison previous to his loss of life? We’ll discover these questions in Half II of this story, to be printed early subsequent week.