Report: Ashley Madison Data Leak Was an Inside Job

Aug 25, 2015 2:52 PM PST

LOS ANGELES — If Internet security expert John McAfee is correct, the much publicized data breach of adult affair site was an inside job.

In an article for International Business Times, John McAfee claims that Ashley Madison was not hacked, but its most private data — including sensitive consumer information — was stolen by a female employee of parent company Avid Life Media, who was working on her own.

McAfee has been analyzing the 40GB data dump, and determined that it was the result of a lone wolf attacker with intimate access to the company’s systems.

“A hacker is someone who uses a combination of high-tech cybertools and social engineering to gain illicit access to someone else’s data,” McAfee wrote. “But this job was done by someone who already had the keys to the Kingdom. It was an inside job.”

“Any adept social engineer would have easily seen this from the wording in the first manifesto published by the alleged hacking group,” McAfee added. “I was one of the first practitioners of social engineering as a hacking technique and today it is my only tool of use, aside from a smartphone — in a purely white hat sort of way.”

In his article, McAfee outlines the processes he used to make his assertions, and discusses the type of information he was able to glean from the data dumps, including the decoded password hash tables of every company employee, MySQL databases, office layouts, organization charts and every private email to and from the CEO — even the raw source code for all the company’s programs.

There was so much information in the breach, garnered from multiple systems, and with so much of it having no value to outside organizations, that it convinced McAfee that the breach was an inside job.

“These are just a few of the many strangely included files that would take even a top notch hacker years to gather, and seem to have little or no value,” McAfee explains. “Any reasonable cybersecurity expert would come to the conclusion that only someone on the inside, who could easily gain all of the files through deception and guile, could have done the job.”

As for those high-level emails, Krebs on Security is reporting that contained within in them are revelations that a former Ashley Madison exec had hacked a competitor’s website — grabbing its full user database.

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