24 October 2022
Keyless specialises in authentication and identity management solutions. Its story started in 2018 from the idea of Andrea Carmignani and Fabian Eberle. London was its first headquarter, an element that allowed the two entrepreneurs to build strong business relationships in San Francisco (USA) and to obtain their first fundraising.
Soon Carmignani and Eberle decided to bring their company back to Italy. P101, “Luiss” University, and Primo Ventures helped them in this process.
In 2021, Keyless closed a 3,000,000€ investment round. Previously, in July 2020, it had raised another round that was led by P101. Thanks to these two deals, the company gained 9,2 million dollars in total fundraising. Recently, Sift, a cybersecurity Californian company, backed by some tier 1 VC investors like Insight Partners, Union Square Ventures and Stripes, acquired Keyless. Today, the latter has 45 employees.
New risks and new needs
During the Covid pandemic, investments concerning technology and, especially, digitalisation increased. As a consequence, companies accelerated this transition to the digital.
In this regard, we can find interesting data in the ‘Global CEO Outlook Survey 2020’ by KPMG, the annual research involving 1.300 CEOs working in Italy and other ten leading global economies. This analysis shows that CEOs invested a lot in technology over the lock down period. They trusted in digital transformation to increase their companies’ resilience and flexibility and become more customer-focused.
This new trend brought more cybersecurity-related issues. Passwords are the first element that cybercriminals exploit to hack systems. According to the 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report by Verizon Business, stealing credentials was the most common form of hacking in 2021. It reached almost 61% in 2021 and 80% in 2020.
Keyless has the answer!
That is the mission of Keyless. The company came up with quite an extreme solution. It decided to eliminate passwords.
“We generate biometric cryptographic keys that have strict privacy features”, Carmignani explains. “It is an easy and safe solution that allows organisations to obtain a great conciliation between security, privacy, and benefits. We developed our system over 10 years of research. Replacing passwords with users, reduces complications concerning user experience and, also, eliminates the risks connected to human errors. Moreover, our solution does not depend on third parties. This means that it works with any platform, operating system, and user’s device”.
If we compared Keyless solutions with others on the market, we could notice that their main improvement concerns privacy.
“Our solution could seem to compete with Apple and Samsung systems that provide facial recognition for smartphones”, says Carmignani. “Nevertheless, facial and fingerprint recognition, systems we normally use to unlock our devices, are based on passwords too: they are the face or fingerprint that unlocks our device. Instead, Keyless creates a geometrical presentation of a user’s face from an image. This picture does not get stored because there is no need to do it. This procedure allows us to create a unique key that can be only used by one person. Furthermore, thanks to our decentralised cloud system, we can guarantee safety and anonymity”.
Luiss university was the first institution that tried this technology. Thanks to it, more than 1,000 students could take their exams from home thanks to a fast integration of Keyless with Cisco solutions. And all this happened in just a few weeks.
The technology behind Keyless
Keyless system is “multi-factor” by design. The user does not need to remember anything or utilise any additional tool (hard token, smart card). It is plug-in. You can integrate it with pre-existing systems and organisations without making changes to their security systems. This means that companies can offer this new service in a short time.
The technology underpinning Keyless is completely Italian. And we can say the same for the core elements of the company. During the development phase of this technology, the meeting with professors Giuseppe Ateniese and Paolo Gasti was essential. Ateniese is an associate professor of Computer Science at the University “Sapienza” in Rome, while Gasti works as a professor of Computer Science at the New York Institute of Technology.
Keyless has clear plans for the near future. For its new projects, the keyword is “behavioural biometrics”.
Carmignani says: “Over the next three years, we’ll focus on behavioural biometrics: from facial geometry to behaviours – how I hold my phone, or I type on the keyboard. These parameters will be used to recognise any specific user”.
The company is also willing to establish business partnerships in new countries and expand its team.
“We will settle in our Sift headquarters, in San Francisco, and we will look for new markets”, reveals the CEO. “We will focus on the European Union, but also Israel, and United Arab Emirates. Keyless will continue to grow. Therefore, we are always looking for new talents with open minds and international spirits”.