Microsoft, Facebook, Equifax And The Fast-Moving Front Line of Cybersecurity – Forbes
Five years ago, the founders at London-based Onfido, an identity verification company, went searching for a symbol for one of their most deeply held values, creative thinking.
They hit on a scientifically elegant species of bird called the Darwin finch. A group of about 15 species that Darwin observed on the Galapagos islands, the finches evolved to have differently shaped beaks, for say, eating the fleshy part of a cactus or eating the insect larvae that live in its base.
“If you don’t believe in evolution, you wouldn’t have the confidence to do a startup,” said founder Husayn Kassal. His other two co-founders are Ruhul Amin and Eamon Jubbawy. The children of Iranian, Bangladeshi and Iraqi immigrants, respectively, they founded Onfido in 2012 after graduating from Oxford.
The company has evolved in the two years since I wrote about it—in ways that illustrate how fast the front lines of cybersecurity are moving, and how easily even the largest companies can lose at this game. In fact, some of the rules of the market don’t seem to apply here. Size is usually an advantage, but not when hackers are deciding their targets.
The high stakes means the ID authentication space is rapidly emerging, with major investments by big companies. Onfido just landed a $30 million C round, with Microsoft Ventures as a participant.
Onfido now has more than 1,500 customers, it says, the vast majority of them financial services companies that are obliged to do Know Your Customer checks. Prominent names include Its clients include Square, Zipcar, and Revolut. Other customers are sharing economy companies that place people in homes to do jobs. It’s one of a handful of companies multi-factor authentication space include Sonavation, Transmit Security, Socure and Biocatc, according to CB Insights. San Francisco-based Checkr is probably the most prominent.
This question of how to verify that you are who you say you are is suddenly at the forefront of everyone’s consciousness. This is the result of two recent events: the Equifax breach, in which as many as 143 million Americans were affected by a data heist, and the Facebook hacking scandal, in which bogus accounts, apparently established by Russians, placed ads that heightened the hostility of our public discourse. The thieves who stole the Equifax data did it so they could sell it to people like the ones who apparently misused Facebook’s platform – and others with various nefarious intentions. Some lucrative scams include filing for multiple disability or Social Security payments, or credit card fraud — but those are just the start.
Onfido is carving a niche for itself based in high-level ID authentication, betting that banks and job services will pay for its software, though it would not provide revenue, citing agreements with its investors. It started with a big database of documents, like passports from different countries and Interpol IDs, and fake documents, too.