By David Penn
Take the “money transfer without money movement” sensibility of the hawala system on one hand. Take improvements on the Diffie-Helman key exchange on the other. Combine the two and the result is the “mutual and simultaneous” authentication system developed by Uniken and demonstrated at FinovateFall this September.
“Uniken is a cybersecurity company that does one thing and only one thing. But we do it incredibly well,” company CEO Bimal Gandhi said. “We make connecting safe.” He added: “In two years, 28 implementations, 4 million users, and over nine million end points protected, we have zero penetrations, zero hacks, zero identity loss, and most importantly, zero financial dollar and zero data loss.”
Uniken recognizes that secure connections are based on secure relationships. Likening current authentication methods to asking for identification after a stranger has entered your home, Uniken instead focuses on pre-connection authentication. This ensures that requests for connection come from approved users, approved apps, and approved devices before they reach the network. “Our product, REL-ID is a security solution for mobile applications that tightly integrates identity and authentication with a secure, omni-channel solution. It authenticates with perfect forward secrecy and fidelity. It reduces dramatically the attack surface all while ensuring security doesn’t get in the way of an app’s phenomenal client experience – which is what they’re asking for,” Gandhi said.
At FinovateFall, Gandhi demonstrated REL-ID Verify, Uniken’s authentication and verification solution designed especially for logins from work and even publicly-accessible PCs (such as at a hotel business center). “With REL-ID Verify and a trusted device like a mobile phone,” Gandhi explained, “what you get is simply the ability to log in, get a message through a trusted channel that you verify and comes back through that secure channel to you … There was never a third party involved in that whole thing. That communication was between that app and your authentication server directly – all on a tightly integrated secure channel.”
- Founded in August 2013
- Headquartered in Chatham, New Jersey
- Serves four million users and protects more than nine million endpoints around the world
- Raised more than $8 million in equity funding
- Generated close to $2 million in revenue
Pictured (left to right): Uniken’s Robert Levine (VP, Business Development) and Bimal Gandhi (CEO) demonstrating REL-IDverify at FinovateFall 2016.
I talked with Uniken CEO Bimal Gandhi during rehearsals at FinovateFall 2016, and followed up a few weeks later with some questions via email. His responses are below.
Finovate: What problem does your technology solve?
Bimal Gandhi: We make connecting safe. Uniken looks at the world differently by revolutionizing the way that people think about identity authentication and why it must be done over a secure channel that addresses the threats we now experience. Our core solution allows companies to safely connect their clients to its digital products. To do this, our solution integrates three separate technologies: a new secure channel with key distribution, multi-factor authentication, and Software Defined Perimeters that reduce the attack surface of your applications all while enabling an amazing user experience.
Finovate: Who are your primary customers?
Gandhi: We are targeting our solution to enterprises that have large scale digital customers. Our solution is geared toward mid market and large scale enterprises that have a need for exceptionally strong security while concurrently enabling an amazing customer experience. Today we have customers in the government, military, financial services, manufacturing, and e-commerce spaces. We are rapidly expanding into healthcare, secure infrastructure, and IoT.
Finovate: How does Uniken solve the problem better?
Gandhi: By combining three separate technologies, we are able to mitigate risks that other technologies can’t. These risks include credential compromise, MITM attacks and phishing attacks, all while also reducing the overall attack surface for the enterprise. Our next couple of releases will further enhance our DDOS resistance by segmenting connectivity at the protocol layer in a way that no other product can do.
Finovate: Tell us about your favorite implementation.
Gandhi: One of our most remarkable implementations was for one of the major Depository Clearing houses of a major country. We were able to get this institution up and running with 1,500 financial institutions and fully functional within 60 days. In short, 1,500 member banks were able to get into the Depository Clearing house on the 60th day and clear billions of dollars of transactions safely, simply, and securely. This is a great testament that speaks to the ease that our technology integrates with existing systems.
Finovate: What in your background gave you the confidence to tackle this challenge?
Gandhi: Our management team has broad backgrounds encompassing financial services, technology, and cyber security. We have built teams, scaled businesses, and consistently brought value to clients ever day. We are proud to have Dr. Whitfield Diffie as our Chief Security Officer who helped create the pre-eminent key exchange technology used on the internet today (i.e., the Diffie-Helman key exchange mentioned above). Our whole team reassures clients that we will be a major factor in the future and gives them the confidence that we can deliver today.
Finovate: What are some upcoming initiatives from Uniken that we can look forward to over the next few months?
Gandhi: Our roadmap includes some great extensions of both platform and capability. We are upgrading our desktop clients to match the robustness of our recent REL-IDmobile and REL-IDverify offerings. The desktop agent will be the final piece in our client-facing product set. We are also extending our connectivity solution to servers and Linux based environments, enabling the use of our protocol in server-to-server connections and cloud-only application environments. And finally, we are making our backend and frontend offerings FIDO compliant, giving our customers the ability to quickly integrate any other FIDO credential system. With these features in place, we believe the REL-ID family of offerings will be unique in the security market place for safety, simplicity, and scale.
Finovate: Where do you see Uniken a year or two from now?
Gandhi: We expect to see Uniken as the leader in customer identity management and expect broad-based adoption of our REL-ID protocol as a part of a larger ecosystem, whereby multiple vendors cooperate with solutions to keep the internet safe.
Levine and Gandhi demonstrating REL-IDverify at FinovateFall 2016 in New York.