Callsign’s CEO and founder, Zia Hayat, spoke with Efma’s Boris Plantier about the origins of his passion for cybersecurity and how his company is addressing the persistent problem in today’s world.
What led to the creation of Callsign?
It all started in 1994 when I read a news story about how Vladimir Leonidovitch Levin, a Russian hacker, attempted the biggest ever bank heist, all via the internet. I found it fascinating how a person could use a basic dial-up modem technology from their sofa to hack the back-end systems of Citibank in New York with such ease. Looking back, I like to think this was the start of what I like to call the era of “armchair fraud.”
Fast forward fifteen years, I couldn’t shake my passion for cybersecurity. That’s why, while doing a PhD in Information Systems Security at University of Southampton, I struck upon the idea that by using a range of information to verify a person’s identity using their smartphone, it would be possible to make online fraud attempts much harder. It was clear that existing clunky knowledge-based solutions, which rely on memorable name, password, and PIN were easily compromised by fraudsters if they were able obtain access to the user’s personal information.
At that point my idea for Callsign was at its early stages, but during my time working at Accenture and various top-tier banks, I soon realized that there was a deeper problem in the industry: there was an overwhelming focus on solutions designed for security and stopping fraudsters, which neglected the customer’s point of view and provided a poor user experience. I knew that a positive customer experience was integral to driving company growth, which is why I decided to flip authentication on its head – instead of attempting to spot fraud, it would be far better to positively identify the customer themselves. My idea was a complete paradigm shift in authentication. That was why Callsign was developed as a secure solution, which could also be tailored to offer personalized user journeys (and subsequently improve clients’ net promoter score) and reduce fraud at a lower cost.
Could you present Callsign's offer?
Today’s user expects more from technology. They are used to smart and seamless experiences and anything less causes people to abandon transactions or find other ways such as costly calls or helpdesks. By using all of the thousands of data points available, such as typing or swiping techniques, location, face recognition, devices, and even passwords, Callsign addresses this problem by providing a friction-free experience that allows genuine users to ‘get on’ with their lives.
Our technology reduces banks’ reliance on expensive, experience-degrading authentication interventions, while guaranteeing security through a low false positive and false negative rate. At the same time, Callsign drives the user experience by identifying ‘bad paths’, and other blockers in the user’s digital journey, and gives organizations the tools they need to fix issues in a fast, cost-efficient way.
This is made possible by Callsign’s Intelligence Driven Authentication, which combines information from an array of sources to establish a user’s identity. Callsign recognizes and filters out bad actors, then analyzes a user’s device, location, and behavior with advanced machine learning models. These models assess how likely it is that the user is who they claim to be, and communicates that assessment with a simple, easy to understand score.
Once a score is generated, Callsign’s Decisioning Module allows banks to determine what should happen next. High risk authentication attempts can be denied, or the user can be prompted to complete ‘step-up’ authentication as an additional security layer. Once authentication is granted, Callsign orchestrates the rest of the user’s digital journey.
This method results in a multi-tiered approach to security that enables banks to select the most secure and least invasive identity journeys for each user in real-time, based on their risk profile and tendencies. The result is an experience that optimizes for both security and usability – obtained through a single provider.
What's coming next for Callsign?
Callsign has expectations to become the leading player in the industry and we are currently working on exciting global expansion plans to support our growing customer base outside of Europe and the US. We also have a number of product innovations in the pipeline that are set to be world-firsts for identification. More can be found at callsign.com.
Since day one, I’ve been eager to keep the company true to its founding principles, even as we quickly scale. I’m pleased to say we are already doing this by launching both our apprenticeship and graduate hiring programs and have plans to further support the education of young people in cybersecurity in the months ahead.