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FireID: Jenny Dugmore

Headlines screaming fraud have made 2009 a tough year for Internet banking, but they’ve also served to confirm that the market is ripe for FireID.

Juliet Pitman

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Jenny Dugmore

Developed by the Cape Town-basedcompany of the same name, FireID is a groundbreaking mobile authenticationsystem that allows users to log into almost anything that requires personalauthentication – without the need to remember passwords, receive one-time passwords(OTPs) via SMS, or carry any other form of authentication hardware like tokens.

“The system can also be used for onlineshopping or to log into an office VPN or extranet,” says company CEO JennyDugmore. The authentication process begins when a user tries to log in to anonline application. By downloading FireID on their mobile phone, they are ableto generate an instantaneous OTP, which they then type into the applicationlog-in screen. The FireID authentication server approves the OTP and sends a responseto the website, which allows the user to log in. “What makes FireID so secure is thefact that the OTPs are generated offline so there is no chance of SMS’dpasswords being intercepted,” Dugmore explains. A mathematical process meansthat the FireID server and the user’s FireID application on their phone areable to generate the same one-time-passwords in sequence. “Another uniquefeature is that FireID is compatible with almost any make of mobile phone andit can be used to generate OTPs for a range of different applications, all fromone phone,” Dugmore adds.

With so many unique features, it’sunsurprising that FireID initially attracted seed funding and is busyfinalising another round of capital investment. It’s also generated anoverwhelmingly positive response from both the local and international market.“Locally, some large financial institutions are currently in the pilot stagewith us and we are very bullish about the development potential of theserelationships. We’ve approved some significant resellers and are working withgovernment institutions that have shown huge interest in what the product cando for them,” says Dugmore. The company launched its US presence inApril this year and recently appointed Lawrence Levine as its president. He isan internationally renowned authority on information technology and security,particularly in the banking industry. “The Americans are primed forincreasingly sophisticated mobile security and authentication solutions, and weat FireID are excited to provide that,” said Dugmore. It’s been a great year for the companybut Dugmore is quick to point out that Internet security is an ever-movingtarget. “We’re constantly working on new innovations to make sure we stay onestep ahead of fraudsters,” she concludes.

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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