While the hack of Ashley Madison is very bad news for its 32 million users, it is bringing big bucks to the PI startup Trustify. This new company lets people access the services of vetted PIs by accessing their app for $67 an hour. Trustify’s claim to fame is that it lets ordinary people access the services of PIs which are frequently reserved for the relatively wealthy.
Hackers made the emails of Ashley Madison users publicly available, but you had to go into the deep web and access Tor—something out of the skill set of many people. Trustify obtained the email addresses and sent an email to every user notifying them that they had been compromised. While this is ethically questionable, it brought a large volume of business to the company.
Trustify also made it easy for anyone to access the database by having a search function on its website allowing anyone to search for emails in the data dump. Founder and CEO Danny Boice told WIRED that their caseload increased 15-fold in the week following access to the Ashley Madison email list.
Critics lambasted Trustify for harvesting email addresses, fear mongering, and inciting users to sign up for its services. User privacy is a major issue, and the email addresses have not been verified as belonging to individuals. Security expert Troy Hunt told WIRED that Trustify exploited worried users to sign up for its services by proposing that the owners of email addresses listed by the hack use the services of this PI firm.
After such harsh public criticism, Trustify no longer emails any address that was checked using its check tool. The company briefly took down the search function allowing anyone to search the database, but Trustify then renewed this service.
In addition to concerned Ashley Madison users, spouses are flooding Trustify to find out if their spouses were cheating. While online searching seems like it is discrete and convenient, the Ashley Madison hack demonstrates that people need to be vigilant about protecting their privacy on the web.