By Susanna Speier
Denver Private Investigator Blogger
DENVER - Our August 19th post, Find out if your client's partner or spouse is on Ashley Madison, pointed to Trustify's database and urged private investigators to use it as a research tool. That was before an August 24th article posted by Microsoft MVP of Developer Security, Troy Hunt titled, “Ashley Madison search sites like Trustify are harvesting email addresses and spamming searched victims," included a screenshot of an unsolicited email Trustify is sending victims of the Ashley Madison hack. It's subject heading: "'your boss might know.'"
"'Talk with our experienced investigative consultants,'" another Trustify email concludes, "'to learn how you can find out what incriminating information is available and could ruin your life.'"
When we contacted Trustify to get their side of the story, we got ghosted. This article will therefore focus on our interview with Metropolitan State University Computer Science Professor, Steve Beaty, instead.
“The security community is very unhappy with (Trustify)” explains Metropolitan State University Computer Science Professor Steve Beaty in an interview. “People trashed them, correctly. You shouldn’t be able to look up anybody. You should be able to look up yourself”
The rest of the conversation with Steve Beaty is transcribed below:
STEVE BEATY: The data (from the Ashley Madison hack) are public but searching them takes some skill. It was originally posted to the TOR (The Onion Router) hidden web or dark web. Files are a database dump so it does take some amount of sophistication to look at the email addresses and credit card charges.
DENVER PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR BLOGGER: Is there anything good about the dark web?
STEVE BEATY: There are good things about the anonymity TOR provides. In countries without internet privacy, TOR provides ways of communicating that would otherwise expose users. It’s been used for human rights activists and the Arab Spring for example. For hidden services, I think the case is less compelling; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tor_%28anonymity_network%29#Usage
DENVER PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR BLOGGER: Was Trustify the only site to bring the stuff from the dark web into the light and try to monetize it?
STEVE BEATY: I’m sure other people have. When these things happen there will be people who send extortion emails to everyone they can get an address for. There will be a certain percentage of people who will say ‘gee maybe I signed up. Here’s $50.’
DENVER PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR BLOGGER: $50 for what?
STEVE BEATY: “I can remove your name from the Ashley Madison database.”
DENVER PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR BLOGGER: And that’s possible?
STEVE BEATY: Trustify’s Ashley Madison search tool Q&A asks that, too. What if a cheater or their spouse wants the data deleted? Can people pay you for that? Trustify responds,there might be people you pay to do that - we aren’t those people. No one can do that!!!
Trustify also says, we have consulted our legal team and privacy experts every step of the way. Have they consulted an ethicist? Just because something is legal, doesn’t mean it’s moral.
DENVER PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR BLOGGER: Can a private investigator use the data obtained from the Ashley Madison hack to pursue an infidelity case in a way that is moral?
STEVE BEATY: Private investigators keep it private. (Privacy) doesn’t allow the general public or places like Trusty to benefit. I don’t think its private when they start sending everybody email or when they have a public website saying anybody can check. Not just on yourself but on anybody. That’s not private investigation. That’s public. That’s fear mongering. I don’t like that. That’s exploiting a situation.
Even if they’re not making money on the Ashley Madison look ups. People are going to want to turn around and hire them. That’s advertisement for them. Even if its not a direct money source for them its an indirect source --talk about SEO!! [Trustify's Ashley Madison search tool is "averaging 500 searches per second," according to CNN] It's ambulance chasing, in my opinion.
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