The hack of infidelity site Ashley Madison is the latest in a long line of high-profile cyberattacks. It has been widely covered in the media not because it deals with sensitive national security secrets or corporate data, but because it exposes the things we try to hide in our own personal lives.
I’m Danny Boice. My company, DC-based start-up Trustify, stepped in to provide a simple but age-old service—helping people find the truth. In the wake of the Ashley Madison breach, we built a simple tool designed to let customers search the data and determine if they were signed up for an account, or if a person they knew used the service. In many cases, we helped someone prove to their spouse that they weren't an active user, and hadn't created the account themselves. As a bonus, the customer now understood what they needed to do, if anything, to protect themselves from any identity theft online.
In other cases, we confirmed a spouse's worst fears.
Whatever the outcome, our focus and that of our network of private investigators was to provide a technical means to an end: helping people cut through the noise to get to the truth.
Our efforts have been hugely successful, and as a result, we’ve received a great deal of attention, both good and bad. As a small, new start-up (I only founded the company in March), dealing with national-level press and public attention was overwhelming at times. We were heralded as heroes, and blasted as evil-doers - sometimes by the same people, on different days. We didn't overreact. We took the feedback seriously, and made adjustments to our search tool and marketing approach. We welcomed questions from the public and reporters, and stayed on message.
Cutting through the noise and finding the truth isn't easy, when it comes to cheating cases, or running a start-up, or anything in life. When my team and I were working around the clock to handle new cases, respond to customer phone calls, and address questions from the press, it was critical that we kept our core mission in mind. Cut through the noise. Find the truth. Give our customers peace of mind.
When you cut through all the drama and sexiness of the Ashley Madison story, one thing this extreme case demonstrates is that people want the truth about what is going on around them. Over the last several weeks alone, we have seen millions of people come to our site to help them get the truth, and to verify whether their trust in someone is warranted. At one point, we were seeing more than 500 searches per second as people flocked to understand if what they were told at home was really true.
Truth seeking is as old as time, but nowadays we have new tools for the trade, whether it’s a journalist using Instagram to reveal a Senator spending taxpayer cash to attend a Taylor Swift concert, or a loved one scrolling through a partner’s text messages, truth-finding services have been around since the days of Abraham Lincoln, when a private investigator foiled an attempt on the President-elect’s life in 1860.
Today, trust in people is at historic lows. This lack of trust not only affects how we view our public figures, it manifests itself in our neighborhoods, our homes, our jobs and our bedrooms.
We are also increasingly living our lives in a virtual world. We can get a boundless amount of information with the click of a button, and interact with people around the globe anonymously and in an instant. Every day we are overloaded with information and data -- some of it reliable and some not — and that makes finding the truth even more difficult and more important than ever before.
These two trends are exactly the reason I founded Trustify. With nearly 27 million people in America divorced – myself included, nearly 12 million separated, more than 40 million people dating online, it was clear to me that there were millions of Americans without the resources or know-how to discover the truth for themselves, because they couldn’t hire powerful lawyers and expensive private investigators to seek it out. Everyone should have the ability to get to the bottom of things. I believed there needed to be a way for all of us to access information without breaking the bank. And most of all, I believed that fairness in the world is fostered by equal access to information and truth.
This search for the truth will continue well beyond the Ashley Madison hack. I expect more cases like this to come in the future and we plan to be there to help the victims of data breaches. Our goal is to make it easy for this nation of truth seekers to get the facts.