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Fraud-Fighting Startup Trusona Knows You Never Swipe the Same Way Twice

One adviser to the startup is the subject of the 2002 movie "Catch Me If You Can."


Every time you identify yourself to carry out a transaction — whether it’s entering a PIN at a bank ATM or signing your name to a legal document — there is some amount of uncertainty. You might have a stolen card; you might be a master forger. There are any number of possibilities.

When the stakes are really high — say, when tens of millions of dollars or access to a really sensitive building are at stake — there is an institutional motivation to be sure that the person you’re dealing with is really, really who they say they are. A new startup called Trusona exited stealth today with the mission of helping eliminate that uncertainty — and with an $8 million investment from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

At its core lies another kind of uncertainty: Humans are imprecise and never to do the same thing in the same way. Take swiping credit cards. Sometimes you swipe fast, sometimes you swipe slowly, sometimes you swipe repeatedly. Trusona’s technology can detect these tiny differences between one swipe and another. And if it detects one swipe that is exactly the same as a previous one, it blocks it.

Attacks that are made to look precisely like previous successful sign-ons are called “session replay attacks,” and there are different ways to prevent them. Ori Eisen, Trusona’s founder and a former fraud officer at American Express, says the technology has been tested by banks in Chile, and so far, after nearly 120 million transactions, there’s been zero fraud. “If the system detects a 100 percent match, it assumes that it’s 100 percent fraud,” he said.

The company is also notable for one of its advisers. If you remember the 2002 movie “Catch Me If You Can,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, you’ll recall Frank Abagnale. As a teenager and young man in the 1960s he impersonated an airline pilot, a lawyer and a doctor and cashed millions of dollars’ worth of fraudulent checks. Today, he lectures FBI agents on fraud techniques and helps companies strengthen their security.

Abagnale says the only thing that can beat security technology are social engineering attacks — one person fooling another. “We make it easy for criminals to steal from us,” he said.

It’s the second company on which Eisen and Abagnale have worked together. Previously, Eisen sold 41st Parameter, a fraud detection company, to Experian for $324 million. About Abagnale, Eisen said: “I bring my ideas to Frank and he tells me how he’d go about defeating them, and we talk about it until the day he says he can’t beat it. Then it’s ready.”

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