Israel Science and Technology September 2015

BioCatch eliminates hackers-and passwords.

Computer users-how many passwords do you have? BioCatch wants to reduce that number to zero, while strengthening your protection against fraud and identity theft. 

BioCatch, an Israeli company with strong Chicago ties, is a pioneer of what it calls "cognitive biometrics." Ordinary biometrics include things like your fingerprints, retinas, dental records, and DNA-the parts of your body that make you unique. 

But your behavior, including your computer use, is unique to you as well, and cognitive biometrics measures your personal computing style. As Gershwin might put it: "The way I click my mouse/ The way I tap my keys/ The way I swipe my screen/ They can't take that away from me." 

BioCatch measures the pressures, angles, and other factors-more than 400 in total-of your individual computer use to make sure you are you. These factors include hand-eye coordination, left/right handedness, usage preferences (whether you use your mouse or keyboard more), and geo-location (where in the world you are).

Their focus is on mobile and web applications, especially where money is involved. BioCatch's clients are banks and stores wanting to keep transactions user-friendly while protecting users against cyber-threats. You, the user, won't even know the bank or store is using this technology to protect you. But neither will cyber-thieves. After all, they can't hack what they don't even know is there. Meanwhile, it won't slow you down at all.

Other BioCatch clients are offices and other places where many people-including some you may not know-have access to your computer. 

BioCatch was founded by experts in neural science research, machine learning, and cyber-security. Their technology is currently deployed in leading banks across North America, Latin America, and Europe. 

"The ability to prevent and detect fraud is critical to the success of online business," BioCatch's website reads: "On the one hand, criminals are outsmarting once-proven defenses. On the other, customers have little patience for complex and intrusive security controls. Organizations must deploy solutions that reduce fraud without impacting the user experience."

All of this cyber-sophistication was inspired by a very human thing: a cartoon. Drawn by Peter Steiner, it shows a dog sitting in front of a computer telling another dog: "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog."

Avi Turgeman, who served in the Israel Defense Forces, first laughed when he saw the drawing, then got to thinking. He concluded that the only effective way to detect an online impostor-canine or otherwise-is to verify his or her identity through a process of continuous biometric authentication. In other words, there is a correlation between online behavior and a person, and this behavior cannot be copied or replicated. 

On the basis of this idea, BioCatch was founded in 2011 in Tel Aviv, with the goal of eliminating the ability of dogs-or computer programs-to masquerade as people. Or other people to masquerade as you.

The idea that computer use was unique to the individual has a twenty-year academic history. But BioCatch's innovation was to apply that theory in a practical way. 

Their solution? Invisible Challenges™. Their user interface would "force" users into doing things with their computers that BioCatch could measure, without users knowing they were being measured. 

By late 2013, the company emerged, and soon began winning awards, accolades and the support of many of the most important companies in
the world. 

Brian Rozensweig, managing partner for JANVEST, explains that his Chicago-based venture capital firm was an early believer and investor in BioCatch's innovations. 

JANVEST was founded six years ago to give investors "a wider opportunity for investing in Israel." BioCatch is one of 15 Israeli companies they invest in and provide with consultation. 

Rozensweig explains that the program constantly updates and learns more about the user: "It operates continuously, and keeps authenticating as you go." First, this allows your BioCatch to continue to recognize you even after you have gotten better and more fluid at using a given program. Further, this ongoing monitoring is an improvement over current systems, which can allow a crook to use your computer after you have been forced to type in your password. 

"Nobody else can do what they do," Rozensweig says of BioCatch. "They want to render the username-and-password system obsolete. It's the most dynamic cyber-security coming out of Israel."

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