When travelers check in to a hotel abroad, the front desk asks for a credit card as well as a passport. The credit card is scanned, the passport is photocopied and put on file. Why? To verify the guest’s identity.
We comply because it’s how the system works — in hotels and everywhere online. But what if there were a way to verify identity that didn’t involve potentially compromising sensitive data?
“Our data is everywhere today,” said Louie Gasparini, CEO of Covault, a BBVA New Digital Businesses portfolio company. “All kinds of websites and businesses are holding on to this toxic information… do they really need all that?”
Covault’s business model began as a consumer solution: an app featuring an encrypted vault to store various data, from driver’s license numbers and bank identities to website login data.
Today, Covault is expanding its offerings, developing relationships with partner institutions and businesses to create identity markets and identity-enabled marketplaces that use Covault’s “data escrow.”
“Our users’ data is encrypted with keys they control and stored in the cloud. Covault can’t access that data — we only have encrypted blobs,” Gasparini said. “Only the user have the keys that can unlock those blob of data when requested.”
Covault’s technology benefits everyone in the relationship: Consumers have a secure place to store their identity information and maintain control over how their data is leveraged; businesses decrease their liability in the event of a breach and streamline their processes, too.
Solutions for a changing landscape
As a long-tenured professional in the financial space, Covault founder and CEO Louie Gasparini has watched the world of banking and data security grow and change over time.
He helped build Wells Fargo’s first website in the mid-’90s; shortly thereafter, he led the bank’s team that launched the industry’s first online banking product.
In the early aughts, as phishing scams became more prevalent, he founded and filed a patent for PassMark, a two-way authentication technology that helped users verify their identity on a legitimate website using a secure personal image. PassMark was acquired by RSA, where Louie served as CTO.
Covault brings together Gasparini’s financial and security experience to create a business leading the way in the democratization of high-assurance, verified digital identities.
Somewhat similar solutions exist — such as payment verification services like Verified by Visa — but Covault is the first to incorporate encryption and management of broader identity data.
The challenging road ahead
Today, rather than addressing the root problem — that simply too much risky data is floating around and creating vulnerabilities for all involved — the onus remains on consumers to “be smart” with their data through vigilance and more secure passwords.
Despite the preponderance of massive data leaks and security breaches in the recent past — more than 10,000 unique breaches since 2005, to be exact — most organizations stand by the status quo of collecting massive amounts of personal data during transactions and website registration.
That’s in part because it would require massive re-engineering to implement any new identity-verification solution on the back end. Among the biggest challenges facing Covault as it grows is the huge reliance on the way identification currently works — an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality.
“Why did it only take God six days to create the universe?” he said, recalling an old joke in the tech community. “Because he didn’t have an installed base.”
Though convenience has traditionally won out over security, Gasparini believes Covault can lead the charge in creating a solution that reduces friction, protects consumers, and creates a better process for businesses and consumers alike.
Visit Covault at https://www.covault.com/