These 20-year-olds from Hyderabad are taking cyber security beyond passwords
The past year was not a good one for the ecosystem, with 200 startups reportedly having to shut shop. Entrepreneurship, considered a great career option until not so long ago, seemed less exciting. Many parents were uncomfortable with the idea of their children taking risks with their careers.
PB Surya Subhash’s parents too were wary of their son's obsession with entrepreneurship. However, when their 20-year-old began winning awards and contests for his business idea, they stopped worrying.
Being a security researcher, Surya wanted to come up with solutions in the field of information security. Seeing how often people forget their passwords owing to strict password policies convinced him that his idea would solve a real problem.
In July 2016, while doing a three-week programming course, Surya met Kaushik Bharadwaj, a developer and security enthusiast. The two then went on to launch Primeauth a month later.
They claim that Nimble, their flagship product, is India’s first authentication-as-a-service product. Developed at Primeauth, Nimble lets organisations verify users based on their key-typing behaviour.
Both Surya and Kaushik are third-year B.Tech students of Anurag Group of Institutions, Hyderabad. Their age proved to be one of their biggest hurdles initially as clients found it hard to trust college students. Says Surya,
“The role of the Hyderabad startup ecosystem, especially people like Pankaj Diwan, who have played a phenomenal role as startup enablers, has been fabulous. At the outset, I'd take the opportunity to thank many such background players, including our college faculty and HoD, who have helped us significantly.”
The duo bootstrapped the venture with their parents’ money. According to Surya, the venture received a couple of offers from reputed investors but they declined them as raising money was not a priority then.
Based out of Hyderabad, Primeauth has a team of five people including the two co-founders. Presently operating from the college’s incubator, they will soon look for a co-working space in the city.
The reason social media accounts are so frequently hacked is because people use the same passwords across applications. Moreover, the current authentication system is not exactly user-friendly, given the complex password rules.
Primeauth provides a multi-layer, ultra-secure, multi-factor authentication model. If the website of a Primeauth client is hacked and their database leaked, a remote attacker can't log into the website or application since it's not just the password but also the typing pattern that is taken into account.
They also have push notification-based authentication: once the user downloads the authenticator application and completes a one-time pairing process, she will receive a notification for every new reauthentication and tapping yes/no will take the user inside the application. The application can be dubbed white label. In addition, they have a QR code-based authentication.
“All the layers are combined into a framework that's super simple to integrate and offers a very reliable cloud-based solution and a concrete on-premises solution,” says Surya.
Their target users are enterprises in the fields of healthcare and fintech. The revenue model is SaaS-based, ranging from freemium to pay as you go. At present, they have 25 clients.
The market potential
According to Ken Research, digitisation initiatives by the government, increased online transactions, and compliance-led deployment of security solutions in SME businesses are likely to boost the cyber security market in India.
The Indian government is aggressively pushing its Digital India initiative to boost the position of the country on the digital map. Last year, India and Russia signed a cyber-security agreement at the BRICS Summit in Goa. The agreement reportedly will see cooperation between the two countries on matters of cyber crime, defence, and national security.
According to a Markets and Markets report, the cyber security market globally is estimated to grow from $122.45 billion in 2016 to $202.36 billion by 2021, at a CAGR of 10.6 percent.
“Coming from an information security background, I know the cyber security market is a highly competitive one. But I'd like to remind you that we are not dealing with the whole cyber security angle of an organisation—just certain parts like authentication. The current adoption rate for two-factor authentication is around 6.5 percent, whereas our solution ensures 100 percent adoption for two-factor authentication,” says Surya.