Ashley Madison Using Cash for Crisis Management

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    Throwing money at the problem isn’t always the best solution

    As part of its continuing crisis response for the massive hack that exposed the personal data of cheating site Ashley Madison’s customers, page operator Avid Life Media is offering up a $500,000 CDN (~ $380,000 US) reward for information that leads to capture and arrest of the perpetrators.

    The bounty was announced during a press conference at Toronto Police Headquarters, headed by acting staff superintendent Bryce Evans, who stated, “Today, I can confirm that Avid Life Media is offering a $500,000 reward to anyone providing information that leads to the identification, arrest, and prosecution of the person or persons responsible for the leak of the Ashely Madison database.”

    During the lengthy and somewhat awkward conference, Evans appealed to the morals of the hacking community, as well as giving the attackers, known as “Team Impact” more of the notoriety they undoubtedly thrive on:

    “To the hacking community, who engage in discussions on the dark web, and who no doubt have information that could assist in this investigation, we are also appealing to you to do the right thing, to acknowledge that this is a unique situation that has caused enormous social and economic fallout. You know the Impact Team has crossed the line. Do the right thing, and reach out to us.”

    Not the best statement, but obviously the money is the real lure here regardless of how it’s dressed up. Avid Life Media also released a statement of its own echoing those from law enforcement officials:

    Statement from Avid Life Media – August 24, 2015

    Toronto, ON, August 24, 2015 – Avid Life Media Inc. is grateful to the international law enforcement coalition for the update it provided this morning. We are confident that the considerable investigative and prosecutorial power that is being brought to bear on this unprecedented crime will lead to arrests and convictions.

    The “Project Unicorn” law enforcement task force members that appeared in Toronto today, led by the Toronto Police Services (TPS), and accompanied by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, have been actively investigating all aspects of this crime for more than a month. As TPS indicated at today’s press event, the investigation is progressing in a “positive direction,” but more help is needed from the outside.

    As such, and as announced at today’s press conference, Avid Life Media Inc. is offering a $500,000 CDN reward payment to anyone who provides information to the Task Force that leads to the identification, arrest, and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the theft of proprietary data.

    In the very best interest of our customers, who have been affected by this malicious act, we are firmly committed to fully assisting these law enforcement and investigative authorities, without reserve. Because of this active and ongoing investigation, there is little more we can provide at this time to the media and the public.

    Those who have information that will aid this investigation are encouraged to contact the Toronto Police Service’s Project Unicorn task force at 416-418-2040. Anonymous tips may also be phoned into the Toronto Police Services at 1-800-222-TIPS.

    The Task Force’s Twitter account is @AMCaseTPS.

    As far as crisis management goes, we’re not really sure what’s happening in the minds of Avid Life/Ashley Madison leadership. Catching the responsible parties isn’t going to remove customers’ leaked info from the web, or from the many computers it’s been downloaded to by this time. In fact, we aren’t aware of anything the company is doing to actually help those affected at all.

    In the end, this move comes off as seeking retribution, not seeking justice. To us, that reinforces the selfish image that has few feeling bad for Avid Life or its customers, and given the nature of the business affected there’s not too many ways to get around that one.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is vice president for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]

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