Does Blackmailing Pay? Signs on the Bitcoin blockchain of responses to Ashley Madison extortion emails

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It was bound to happen: someone decided to blackmail members of online affairs website Ashley Madison, whose entire database was leaked earlier this week by a group calling themselves the "Impact Team".  Shortly thereafter, an unknown group or individual has been sending extortion emails demanding Bitcoin for silence:
Of those who had accounts on the cheating website, we asked ourselves: how many are actually paying the blackmailers? Does such a campaign work at all? To begin our investigation, we noted that the addresses in our samples were all different and freshly generated, meaning it had no previous activity on the Bitcoin blockchain we could trace.  (Bitcoin addresses are merely an encoded version of randomly generated cryptographic keys, and thus generating new addresses is free and easy.  In fact, most modern Bitcoin wallet software generates a new addresses for every incoming transaction, effectively making them ephemeral in use). However, we realized that all the emails consistently demanded "exactly 1.05" Bitcoins from their victims, suggesting that we could search the blockchain for transactions paying that amount to infer if such extortions were being paid. Specifically, we found 67 suspicious transactions totalling 70.35 BTC or approximately 15814 USD within the extortion time frame of approximately 4 days paying 1.05 BTC to addresses, with no previous activity, and with 2 or fewer transaction outputs.  All suspicious address we found are attached below. (We conservatively restricted ourselves to ordinary transactions with 2 or less outputs, thus excluding those which were less likely to be simple one-to-one payments.) To put this in perspective, in the three months prior to 8/22/2015 when we first started seeing the extortion emails, we saw transactions matching the above pattern at a rate of approximately 5.3 per 100,000 transactions, versus 8.9 during the extortion period. We can strongly reject the null hypothesis that the incidence of matching transactions during the extortion period followed a Poisson distribution at the historical rate, thus allowing us to infer that perhaps the 40% of the 67 transactions totaling approximately 6400 USD may be attributable to victims paying the blackmail. So, although we cannot say anything conclusively, we have found out that: 1.  For a spammer with pre-existing infrastructure and tools, this extortion campaign could have yielded a worthwhile sum for very little effort.  All the blackmailer had to do was download the Ashley Madison data, extract the email addresses, generate a Bitcoin address for each victim and send out the emails. 2.  Since this search would not have been possible without the consistent extortion amount, we suspect that future attempts at Bitcoin-based blackmail will randomize the amount they demand. In order to go deeper into this analysis, the next step would be to follow the trail of Bitcoins leading to each suspicious address to see if they are connected on the blockchain to each other or any other known suspicious addresses. Such analysis could potentially help law enforcement to deanonymize and pursue the perpetrators. 1DriJgHZrYYmY4jRiVQaKHzcJpUjCpGeUQ 15Z8ouMiGi8mkzramRS8w2r5rTc6vmKmtJ 1FS273GrqQeDgHiFUQhmcVcdDsRxP8bH37 141bvr3GG4L5vaMEB1jNRQRxUVs8SL2Ues 1KktFva2VvC7ccJiLcRphziFejqLsAm19L 13qcYDvm3KJgQs8oLNDDmCRSUVNdFk1U7u 1NFA7wdpAnd98WNXSy14XFpWJvPFDMqWdB 13mTQa1Lu7PY7YQ9i1kHfJ2LAQPSHzipPC 13UhYXexu4gMZV7wuF6nMvcoskpZTzndFc 1LsAnYbqx1M3aVAxAx4HQ2s4mVmtTpbENH 18rAWeapsa8eYSPzLW7LLt5RPjaG99RyLU 1A1tD6Eh575B65FBnCU3nFyiE6F8XSTnGn 1PXmkZY5Dfdd21HnTsswYqA5ofBGA4uKCe 13bSLj3Meieo9c88hzUZZ7JCUDjyPFoPJW 1BcrFesya4yMMNt38SCkBWUS7cfeXWNfaZ 163xg99azNdRPysSSiKppbzsAeY8CZfNB4 137oYdzJkZ34Ragqv4mXr9b2GtmyTCKFdn 129DGouYdepTaoyPCoPno6XPBUdVqYLJzc 14ckjPngaCQ6TPXSJdajj2JbNKb1Mdb4wY 1C9w3DrL4Y4aJbf56adEPrbGYSzqrQshao 1LfbeLAcafgi4Dsgi6kZYutp8zco2Uhbty 1KBKxi9npjjaAFBb8D7VoFk65PVFJTfNFE 1ErwF3T6QCdZ75PBXZdyxXJPN2k7bBV9fd 1Nr2y7XD8c27tMQF5XrQJdfUWjCZ3zY5uy 3HjnsddWrsJGzCixWebUbWPvhQBnqmNKuS 1CHgfsytZX5sxYWmoTW9CLtRenALa438ZB 1P5Jz8MkEHrLvkst4nE3obENFk49h1naks 17N2PbooaR4F3C6DWkq2KwLubWGvZRgL7X 12nqFiUh78NnUWWWPDYoi77Wxu2jjzYqZu 1NTq99ERynPeW4tD66dU11rzg1srmLDS4z 1G52wBtL51GwkUdyJNYvMpiXtqaGkTLrMv 18euqRRpC2Zp9i9dwrT7Qp3M8jfbu9TUn6 1Q3AvrmZ8cykHGQ7kCkSZaopnWiHPzc1Qw 1y6W32cJfsRW5c16SUEXSyexWpvMbsBxn 1BkUNiTfJRTTG1iycaWGZavmLnLVHorUUo 1JjEY8H6QmwKYXuusksqCta2WhVQQG5e59 1CD3BoUwRC5uPxZSVeHhNGKcrv7iwddVbY 1MaqCVfiidjLitysy3vbWrJ12rU1xvEdyD 1B5NT9jV7BXoSPdEcbcCUAcPrpF7WeBLCc 17TmBnHmnkoQboVCmrcJGT2WzkBY8KRw6F 1JFf9QN9iNJA9QFhncEM5FGxqbr1JUmPP8 16w9fAaX8HEh4CMYAqdi9YvP93CSthV1jz 1LnxsZDPNkU96mrYoS1CQwxPmrhJyrgujM 1HZErPx5XPrp8mH98rKRjyazQLYN7j34Lk 14YeaK34GE68S6YASdtHR1iThj8c8hBQ1C 1PUt7bm1ZU6BRT85yDJxd651Fgneveuzs3 17CcixA4fyEmscXPsZRshecXzJ52eoKNNY 14gkHySfCnoV4Fy4nCxoLUgavMP3DMXKsS 1Gscvx3ugexW4xKjBFogQtQRsHR9Eh8v4n 1ETmDWjyto3gGegqch41PCeYJiVx9pmsuv 1EuRpZCEoyRKWcEpv6jD42N2CxJWrrETcD 1MAwvr21q95UBu6y4WhRM47K5RBijQ164G 1Kbj3tzAbtHgJHt6h6G5PuvWYRZkWXAfhH 1KFc1tekeQtZg48pKbCEU2j7J14N2XFTNW 1Hmjw6JcNDxCQuVo7pkUmRmJzRJe4yLze9 13Mj4nmV127symEJ6GTTb4kdTWyQ884QoN 12bbs3MZAsd9mseXKTA93PtHVd2nSkvjDy 137ENC6fNM97tawPMAGgyn9BKLEmkTx7Xd 1JBygewRQuHuh4qJnpQtb1qCfwNJ2zNrg5 1KbhhzTu14XPSMbBPCxEX4o3kTL9QS2UhZ 1Fb4zhTg4a7zmdRWJAJ1cg9A5pZSMdGGeA 19UMZViRQShqJz49cDDEiz3P1Steitze8A 1DUscKj5QoBoYAXq8cLa8bF8f4x9fNxSPx 1DG19BHaTWbLvaSXjGCmc8HmmptSoZSjVH 1HbUkTKH46RY9UBByUrW1qKNAXeCAqJi8E 1PCY5o15oeugfF9NcF3XiL776Bg4sSC9KL 12NXrKmp68vL59oh5Q1aMqNs35CBC97M1q