Saturday 24 February 2018

AimBrain: the startup that aims to kill off the password

Cyber crime is estimated to cost the global economy $445bn a year
Cyber crime is estimated to cost the global economy $445bn a year

Lauren Davidson

A cyber security start-up that heralds the death of the password has raised £350,000 from a top London investor.

AimBrain, which was founded in Edinburgh, secured the funding from Episode1, the venture capital firm behind Zoopla, LoveFilm and BetFair.

The company provides security based on behavioural biometrics, which means its software tracks and learns how a person interacts with mobile devices, from typing speed to how hard they press or where they swipe.

The machine can therefore figure out whether users are who they claim to be, blocking access to an unauthorised person who has stolen a password, picked up an unlocked device or hacked into a network.

It also means that people – from traders using high-security systems to individuals using mobile banking – would not have to keep re-entering their passwords to keep their sessions active.

"People usually have to make a trade off between the user experience and security. That’s the wrong approach," said Andrius Sutas, co-founder and chief executive of AimBrain.

"Our vision of the future is that any device you interact with will know that it's actually you. It will just work. You won't need to remember any passwords."

While the behaviour-tracking software works best for continuous activity rather than logging in, AimBrain is launching facial recognition capabilities in the new year that could replace the password as we know it.

"I don't think the password will ever fully go away," said co-founder Alesis Novik. "But the policies around passwords will definitely change – having to choose 15 random characters will disappear."

AimBrain was born after the Lithuanian co-founders met on their flight to Edinburgh, where they were moving to study at the university.

The duo then participated in Entrepreneur First, the talent-led programme for start-up founders, and AimBrain was in the first cohort of companies at CyLon, the cyber security accelerator in Hammersmith.

Mr Sutas said that new digital-only banks without branches, such as Atom and Starling, would be "perfect customers for us", adding that "multiple banks" are currently trialling AimBrain.

Last week, the company won an Acceleration Award from the UBS Future of Finance Challenge, which will give AimBrain the opportunity to test its technology with the Swiss bank.

Cyber crime is estimated to cost the global economy $445bn each year and cause £34bn worth of damage to the UK economy.

Cyber security has come to the fore this year following a string of high-profile hacks at major companies including Sony, Talk Talk, Ashley Madison, and JD Wetherspoon.

Mr Sutas said AimBrain would not have prevented these hacks but could have stopped criminals from using the passwords that were uncovered.

"The password centric model of security is dead," said Paul McNabb, partner at Episode1 Ventures.

"People cannot remember passwords or get confused or discouraged by complex, multistep sign on processes. The end result is often lost commercial opportunity, consumer frustration, fraud, and poor protection for banks and other service providers.

"AimBrain’s vision of multimodal biometrics is not only many times more secure, but offers a much easier and more reassuring user experience."

A recent report from Planet Biometrics predicted that the value of the mobile biometrics and fingerprint recognition market will triple every year between 2014 and 2019.

AimBrain currently has four engineers and plans to grow its staff numbers into the double digits by next year.

The company is moving to Level39, the Canary Wharf-based hub for financial technology start-ups, in January.

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