30 November 2021
Today, we’re celebrating our 10th birthday at iProov. For the past decade, we’ve been working to keep organizations and individuals safe online through the use of biometric face verification, working with governments, banks and other enterprises around the world. To mark the occasion, we asked our CEO, Andrew Bud, to answer 10 questions about iProov’s story so far. You can watch the full video here—below are some of the highlights.
I set up iProov to solve a problem, a really big problem. About 10 years ago, I was running a large business in the mobile sector and we got involved in a huge case of payments fraud, which affected millions of people.
I realized that the key to this was about authentication and identity. And with the march of technology, the problem was getting harder. In 2011, I invented a way of of of solving one of the really big problems of the internet: that of creating trust in people. That was big and exciting enough to excite me, but also to excite the team that I knew we would have to build to make it a reality.
We assure that a person on the other end of an internet link is the right person, is the real person, and is there right now. You can have all the facts and information that you like about a person, but in the end, trust depends upon the living, breathing, human being on the other end of the screen.
Our task is to make sure that it is the right human being and a real human being, and not some sort of physical or digital forgery—not a mask or a piece of sophisticated synthetic imagery, but that a real person is engaging with the enterprise right now. And it’s important also that this can be done on any user’s device, on any smartphone, or any laptop without distinction of cost or brand. That’s our challenge.
Very simply, we have cracked the problem of creating a solution that is both highly secure and extraordinarily usable, and that was very much what we set out to do. When you come from the mobile content industry, as I did, you learn that usability is absolutely the key to success. Every action you ask a user to do reduces your completion rates by tens of percent. So usability was fundamental to everything that we did. And the question was how could we be sure that a user was real and right there right now, without asking them to do anything? And to do so using the technology that was available on all personal devices?
The answer was light. We use the screen of the user’s device to illuminate their face with an unpredictable sequence of colors. We send a video of their face back to our servers while that’s happening and we analyze the reflections of that screen light from the user’s face. The way that the light reflects off their face and interacts with the complicated and unpredictable ambient light tells us that these are real-life, three-dimensional human, face-shaped objects. And the sequence of colors that we see reflecting from the face has to be the sequence that we told the device to flash. If it looks realistic, but the sequence is wrong, we know we’re looking at a pre-recorded video or deepfake.
Our technology is absolutely unique, and it brings with it a number of benefits—principally usability. The user doesn’t have to do anything. They look at their device, it looks back at them.
Because we do all of this in the cloud, we’re then able to continuously analyze all the attacks that are mounted against us—and there are a lot of them—to learn about what the attackers are doing and how we can continuously make our system better, and all of this without impacting the user at all. By using this multidimensional technology that we have, we can make a perfectly passive experience and make it the strongest in the world.
The first was probably the day that we heard that we had won our first grant from Innovate UK back in 2013: getting money to found a brand new business based upon an unproven technology to solve a hard problem when there were just two or three of you is incredibly difficult.
Another huge highlight was in March 2017, when iProov competed with another 19 UK cyber security startups for the National Cyber Security Center. We were competing in a competition called the Cyber Den, and we won. It completely transformed iProov’s profile both within the British government and also internationally. People suddenly realized that we were a very serious international player in the cybersecurity sector.
Another great highlight was in November 2020, when it was announced that iProov was the fifth fastest-growing technology company in the Deloitte Fast 50 UK. For a decade, the iProov team worked together solving great problems kind of in darkness. Nobody had really heard of us. We had dreams. We wanted to build a large, fast-growth company, and that award said that we had accomplished the first stage of our journey. It said that we were of substantial size and we were growing. The rocket ship had lifted off the tarmac.
There will be many more highlights to come.
One very striking evolution has been the dramatic transfer of all sorts of activities from in-person or letter-based to online. Ten years ago, it was still unusual to think that you could begin and complete secure transactions online, especially on your phone. Now, we absolutely take it for granted. Therefore, the whole question of digital identity, which was very much theoretical 10 years ago, is now something that national governments talk about, invest in, and execute in many parts of the world. So we’ve seen the rise of digital identity in those 10 years.
There has been a revolution in the understanding of the intensity of the threats that society faces. Now, everybody understands that the real adversaries are highly resourced teams from serious organized crime and the security services of national state actors for whom fraud and money-laundering are a significant source of revenue to finance their nation states.
So perhaps the biggest change has been an awareness that cyber is not just a risk, and identity verification is not just a nice to have—it’s a deadly serious requirement.
Firstly, we judge it by how well we’re defending against attacks. Remember, we see all of the attacks mounted against us by any organization, anywhere in the world at any time. So we are continuously monitoring the threat and our ability to resist those attacks is an absolute cornerstone for how we judge ourselves.
At the same time, we also monitor and measure how well good people are able to successfully authenticate and how many attempts it takes to for them to do so. And our metrics in that area are industry-leading and we are determined to keep them industry-leading to have them continuously improving. So one measure of our success is how well are we delivering service to good people? How well are we defending against the bad guys?
A second measure is how motivated, comfortable, strong, confident, and together our teams feel. iProov is a very team-driven organization. We work together. It’s one of our core values and therefore one of the things that matters most to me is the wellbeing and team spirit of all of our staff.
A very important metric is what our customers and partners think of us. A few recent quotes that I can share:
That’s the sorts of feedback that we use to judge whether we’re doing a good job.
We’re in the business of assuring genuine presence—that is a huge, technically demanding, vital problem, and it isn’t going away. In fact, it’s going to get harder. So what we’re going to do in the next 10 years is to grow much bigger by solving that problem on a truly global scale, keeping billions of people safe. And we have to continue running fast. Our business is a little bit like a high-performance jetliner: we have to travel fast in order to stay at the altitude, to keep up and ahead of the attackers.
So we’ve got to continuously innovate, continuously develop new technology, continuously research and implement. We have to achieve vast scale. We have to continuously improve our cost parameters. We have to continuously improve our performance and we have to reach every corner of the online economy so that everywhere in the world people iProov to keep themselves safe and know that iProoving is a marker of their safety.
The reason why so many fantastically bright people have come to work at iProov, and stayed working at iProov, is because we have a purpose and we have a mission. Our mission is to keep people safe online worldwide to prevent bad things from happening to people and to give them freedom. And to do that, we have to achieve the remarkable. One of our key values is we achieve the remarkable. So it’s an exciting business to work in. I want people at iProov to be able to brag about their time in this company to their grandchildren.
I want iProov to provide the birthright of trust to billions of people worldwide to enable them to lead full, rich, and safe lives online.
iProov values are a guiding star for us in the business, and they were developed together with the staff who had contributed so much to our growth. What are they?
We live our values at iProov and they’re the guiding star for how we do things.