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Israeli technology guards your mobile phone identity

Posted By Ilana Teitelbaum On November 4, 2007 @ 4:20 pm In | No Comments

‘ClassifEye has developed a unique means to ensure that the authentication is in real time and not a stored image or hacked authorization.’The nature of identity was once a question left exclusively to philosophers and psychologists. Now, with the advent of cutting-edge digital technology, identity has taken on more concrete characteristics which include your passwords, credit card numbers, and secret identification numbers. Technology has its price, and the price of a concrete identity is simple: it can be stolen.

To target the threat of identity theft, biometric solutions like voice and fingerprint authentication technologies are gradually being implemented worldwide. Unlike a password, one’s fingerprints can neither be changed nor feigned by another person, and are therefore far more secure.

The drawback, however, is that biometric solutions are often expensive and complicated to implement, requiring sophisticated hardware. Enter the new fingerprint authentication technology developed by Israeli company ClassifEye, which can be used with nearly any mobile phone that has a camera, and eliminates the need for any additional hardware – like fingerprint sensors, USB keys and code generators – substantially reducing costs and accelerating mass market deployment.

How does it work? For the user, the technology couldn’t be easier to obtain – it can be downloaded as software directly to a mobile phone. No special hardware is necessary: all the technology needed is encapsulated within the software.

Instead of using costly sensors to read the user’s fingerprint, ClassifEye’s technology works with the existing mobile phone camera: the user just takes a picture of his finger. The software then authenticates the user’s fingerprint and authorizes immediate access. It’s a process that takes less than a minute, and is significantly more secure than a password.

Since an advanced mobile phone usually has Internet access, this technology will make mobile phones ideally suited for sensitive financial transactions, especially bank transactions where large sums of money are involved.

ClassifEye is led by Rami Cohen, who moved to Israel in 1980 from Denmark. Cohen founded ClassifEye three and a half years ago, but the company only took off a year ago in the wake of a $1.2 million investment from Baltimore-based venture capital firm Nobska Ventures.

“ClassifEye has developed a unique means to ensure that the authentication is in real time and not a stored image or hacked authorization…” said Nobska Ventures director Ari Tuchman in a statement. “We believe that this level of improved security, without incremental hardware costs, represents a major breakthrough for carriers and financial service institutions.”

The technology is still up and coming because mobile phones have only recently begun to meet software requirements – but now they have started, progress has been rapid. “A year ago, one phone met our requirements-now there are 39 phones [that do],” CEO Rami Cohen told ISRAEL21c.

The advantage to developing a technology that can suit any current mobile phone is that ClassifEye doesn’t need to work with mobile phone manufacturers. After a new mobile phone is released, ClassifEye can easily tailor its software to meet its requirements. “The train can leave the station and we can jump on as it rides,” says Cohen. “We can get in at any time, post-launch.”

Cohen, whose office wall is adorned with a whiteboard scrawled with complex equations, says there is considerable interest in ClassifEye’s technology in Europe and the Far East.

Cohen explains that the more advanced a country’s mobile phone technology, the more use they have for ClassifEye’s technology. In Japan, for example, mobile phone technology has developed to the extent that people often use them to make small payments, instead of credit cards. This makes the need for security even greater.

Cohen foresees a different approach in the US, where mobile phone technology is not yet that advanced. Instead of approaching mobile phone carriers, as in Europe and the Far East, in the US Cohen is focusing on major financial institutions. The advantage, as Cohen points out, is that banks in the US operate in chains nationwide (and often worldwide).

With one foot in the Far East and the other in North America, Cohen acknowledges the day-long commitment of the lifestyle he has adopted. “I wake up with Japan and go to bed with the US West Coast,” he said.

According to Cohen, Israeli mobile phone technology is a force to be reckoned with on a global level. “In most cases, if you say you’re an Israeli company, they really listen to you carefully,” he explained. At the annual 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona, which is dedicated to mobile phone technology, Cohen laughed that “the second language is Hebrew.”

“We plan on taking Israeli knowhow in mobile technology, adding US operational capabilities, and bringing them to adopters all over the world. It’s a compelling mixture,” he said.

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