February 27, 2005, Updated September 14, 2012

Banks that use the Penflow system have the ability to authenticate signatures anywhere.In an age in which identity theft is a growing problem, it is important to know that when you sign on the dotted line, your bank knows that it is really your signature.

A small Israeli company called Wondernet is currently dominating the world market in document signature authentication, with its unique scientific method of verifying handwritten signatures.

The company’s product Penflow, is a convenient, cost-effective and secure authentication system. It dramatically reduces frauds and forgeries in many different industries and has accumulated an impressive client list, including large and prestigious banks such as Credit Suisse/First Boston and Continental Bank.

“A bank is an organization that is based on signatures,” explains Alex Herman, the company’s vice president for sales and business development.

“Until recently, when you opened an account and you provide your signature, a record of that signature was stored in the branch where you opened the account. So as far as your signature was concerned, you were a customer of the branch but not of the bank,” he told ISRAEL21c.

Banks that use the Penflow, he explained, have the ability to authenticate signatures anywhere.

“Our customers now possess, in the computer of the central bank, not just your signature, but your updated signature. Every bank branch has access to it. You can walk up to the teller of any branch, tell them you want to withdraw money, sign on the signature tablet, and automatically, the bank’s clearinghouse central computer will verify that signature. It’s a real complete solution that can be used by tellers as well as in the back offices to verify signatures on checks,” said Herman.

Banks aren’t the only ones who are vulnerable to breaches in document security and benefit from the Penflow tool. A variety of government agencies, military industries, and communications companies use the signature verification system. They range from extremely large concerns to the smallest of businesses.

“You can find our technology in banks, pharmacies, the military, cellular phone operators – and even in coffee shops,” said Herman.

The company was founded in 1988, by four Israeli partners and a Japanese investor. Surprisingly, Herman said, their competitors are relatively few and he says they are the leaders in their market.

Unlike other verification techniques, Penflow’s advance biometric authentication system is a dynamic process that tracks individual person’s signature characteristics, including short and long term variations, speed of hand movement, writing instrument pressure, and other factors. A signature is treated as a series of movements that contain unique biometric data.

Unlike other electronic signature systems that are used, Penflow’s Biometric Authentication Signature does not treat the signature as a graphic image – with just a picture of a signature, the dynamics within each individual’s signature can’t be detected – so the signatures are easier to copy.

The Biometric system, by contrast, doesn’t just compare the way a signature looks, it measures how the signature is signed.

Herman noted that while Wondernet is aware that multiple methods to identify people are also on the market competing for customers who are fighting identity theft, with fingerprint, face and voice recognition systems, signature identification has a clear advantage.

“Our main benefit is that we are not changing any habits. People are used to signing things, and we allow them to continue to do so, only with a much higher level of security, and efficiency for the company,” Herman said. “We return the handwritten signature to its traditional position of trust.”

Most of Wondernet’s customers in Israel – which include Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi, cellular providers Cellcom and Orange, pharmaceutical giant Teva, and the Israeli Defense Forces – deal with them directly, as do some of their overseas clients such as Credit Suisse.

But their business model generally involves partnering with a local entity, which has allowed them to grow rapidly in Europe, the Far East, South America and North America.

Their Israel headquarters, therefore, remains relatively small, with only 14 employees working in the space they rent on a leafy green kibbutz in the north of the country called Givat Hashlosha. Relatively small in size maybe, but as evidenced by the far-reaching implications of the Penflow, huge in influence.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director