Caymanian tech goes global

The United States military is likely to become a key client to a company marketing portable biometric authentication technology created here in the Cayman Islands.

The products of Maryland-based CryptoLex Inc. were the brainchild of Clovis Najm and an associate, who wishes to remain anonymous, while they were living and working in the Cayman Islands.

Using a technology trademarked as The Power of One authentication solution, CryptoLex has created a patent-pending, hand-held device called Mobio, which provides an absolute and secure method of personal identification using fingerprints – or biometrics – and cryptology.

‘With the Mobio, there will be no more identity theft and no more passwords,’ said Mr. Najm.

Besides the US military, others interested in CryptoLex’s technology include Visa/Mastercard, IBM, Honeywell, BAE Systems, various casinos, and defence contractor Northrup Grumman.

The company has also met with White House representatives about their products, Mr. Najm said.

The technology had its beginnings here in 2001 when Mr. Najm and his associate, who had both been working in the field of IT security, were given a challenge by a local law firm.

‘It started when we were asked to solve a riddle involving identity authentication,’ he said.

Working at home in the evenings, the inventors came up with a way of converting biometrics into digital code.

Although that particular solution was never deployed, Mr. Najm said he and his associate knew they were on to something big.

However, to proceed, they needed funding.

After incorporating CyrptoLex Ltd. in Cayman in 2001, the inventors sought and obtained local investors to back the project.

Properly funded, the inventors were able to continue with development of the technology. Several prototype bio-scanners were created and some actually deployed here in the Cayman Island.

The first version of the product was about the size of a cellular telephone, but subsequent versions of the Mobio became increasingly smaller, Mr. Najm said.

‘Potential users wanted us to shrink the size,’ he said. ‘Our version right now is pretty much something everyone can use.’

Mr. Najm said the technology is very complex but he explained it layman’s terms.

After being initialised to a particular person, Mobio cannot be used by anyone else.

Mobie creates BioCode numbers – or fingerprint passwords – for that person when his or her thumbprints are placed on a small reader on the device.

Different, unique BioCodes, which are used for a single identification verification only, are issued on a LCD display on the device every time the person’s thumbprint is put on the reader.

These BioCode numbers, which are only valid for a few seconds, are synchronised with peripheral receivers that verify the person’s identity and allow secure access to such things as computers, doors, and gates.

Mobio replaces passwords, access cards, and PINs and are legally binding just like a signature or DNA.

One of the early investors in CryptoLex was Dimitri Pappas.

Mr. Pappas said there are about 15 shareholders in CryptoLex, and that more than a million dollars, plus a lot of sweat equity, has been invested in the project.

At one time, before the marketing of CryptoLex really started to take off, the company was offered a substantial amount of money for the rights to the invention, Mr. Pappas said.

‘I looked at the offer and said ‘no way’,’ said Mr. Pappas. ‘I knew what this will be worth down the line.’

To more easily facilitate doing business in the United States, CryptoLex formed a subsidiary company in Maryland, which is not coincidentally located close to many of the US Government entities with which the company wants to do business.

However, CryptoLex is not only looking to sell its technology in the United States, and Mr. Najm says the United Kingdom government is also a target market.

Recently, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair proposed national ID card carrying biometric details such as fingerprints or iris scans.

Opponents of the plan fear it would erode civil liberties.

Mr. Najm said CryptoLex’s technology could alleviate those fears.

‘Privacy concerns, or the perceived negative effects on civil liberties, would be eliminated, as the biometric template matching process we use to confirm identity is not the same as those used with smart cards or biometric smart cards,’ he said.

Although CryptoLex is primarily now functioning in the United States, the Cayman Islands are still very much in its plans for the future.

‘We have great ties to the Cayman financial community,’ he said, adding that all of the company’s transaction-based international business will be based out of Cayman.

Because of the need for confidentiality and security in the financial industry, Mr. Najm believes there will be a big market for the CryptoLex technology here in Cayman as well.

‘Once we start to explain locally the benefits of our technology, we think Cayman could become the technology showcase of the world’s financial centres,’ he said. ‘It could become the first jurisdiction completely protected from computer hacking. And no more money laundering could ever happen.’

2005 looks to be a watershed year for the company.

‘Our goal is to have the maximum number of Mobios going out to the maximum number of people this year,’ Mr. Najm said.

Because CryptoLex has a patent pending on the scientific process of turning biometrics into digital code, Mr. Najm said anyone that wants to use such technology has to go through his company.

‘The Mobio is getting to be a pretty hot item and we’ve pretty much tied up the market,’ he said.

Mr. Najm

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