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How Did ID.me Get Between You and Your Identity?

Military veteran Blake Hall’s cybersecurity company has become the government’s digital gatekeeper. Its unproven estimate—$400 billion in pandemic unemployment fraud—is also very good for its business.

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Hall

Hall

Photographer: Schaun Champion for Bloomberg Businessweek

If you were writing a techno-thriller, you’d give your hero a backstory like Blake Hall’s. He’s a Harvard MBA, an alumnus of McKinsey & Co.’s ultracompetitive summer associate program, and comes from a family with a proud military tradition. He’s a decorated Army Ranger who saw action in Iraq; his dad was an Army brigade commander; his grandfather fought off a Nazi assault in World War II. Now he’s the co-founder of a cybersecurity company who peppers his conversations with battlefield jargon, offering his mea culpas with pledges to do pushups as self-inflicted punishment. “I feel a moral duty because I still have the DNA of a soldier,” Hall said in an October interview.

So this past June, when he very publicly claimed that his company, ID.me, a player in the booming online identity-verification business, had uncovered one of the biggest heists in U.S. history—a $400 billion theft of pandemic unemployment payments perpetuated by cybercriminal gangs—it came with a certain veneer of credibility.