Who hacked Ashley Madison
Divorce lawyers are expecting to cash in on the data leakReuters/Chris Wattie

UK divorce lawyers are expecting to reap the benefits of the Ashley Madison data leak after details of 1.2 million cheating Britons were released to the dark web by hackers. Divorce and family law practices across the country are quietly expecting to be among the immediate benefactors of the leak as husbands and wives are caught out on the site, which is owned by Avid Life Media.

Georgina Hamblin, a top divorce lawyer and director at Vardags family law, said her firm had seen a steady increase in enquiries since news of the Ashley Madison hack broke a month ago. She told IBTimes UK, however, it would take time before the leak on 19 August had any effect.

"Our experience is that people don't jump the moment they discover an infidelity," she said. "There's a period of denial and a period of confrontation with their partner. Although we are pleased that this story hasn't yet wrecked marriages we fear that in the aftermath that it is inevitable we will get more enquiries."

One law firm, Mills & Reeve, said it had already started divorce proceedings following the first leak, The Times reported. A second larger leak from Avid Life Media has been reported, but the data is not believed to include any more customer details.

Most of those signed up to Ashley Madison in the UK are from London, leaked data has shown, with 179,129 users living in the capital. Email addresses from the highest echelons of government and the public services have been found in the Impact Team's leak.

However, divorce lawyers are not the only members of the legal profession who can expect to make money from the hack. Lawyers in Canada have already said they expect to take Avid Life Media to court in a class-action suit that would claim up to CA$760m (£370m, $581m). It could also face a fine from the Information Commissioner's Office, which regulates data protection in the UK.

"If there has been a breach of data protection laws, the Information Commissioner's Office has the power to issue monetary fines of up to £500,000 for a serious breaches that are likely to cause substantial distress," said Mahisha Rupan, a senior associate at technology and digital media law firm, Kemp Little. "Given the sensitivity of the data that has been collected by the hackers, it is highly likely that the regulator will inflict a larger fine if Ashley Madison has not been compliant with the principles of data protection."