OPW INTERVIEW -- Mar 14 -- iovation helps dating sites and social networks work together to beat scammers, spammers, and those that would be abusive towards our communities. Here's my interview with Greg Pierson, the CEO of iovation. (Full Disclosure: iovation is a client of Courtland Brooks). - Mark Brooks
How is iovation funded at this stage?
iovation raised $15 million in growth capital in 2007 and the financial partners we have include Intel Capital, SAP Ventures and European Founders.
What markets does iovation serve?
We serve customers in a range of markets with very different types of fraud and abuse. In addition to online dating customers we serve organizations that are more pure social networks. We have organizations in gambling and online gaming, in financial services and in online retail.
How does iovation help dating companies work together to beat scammers and the like?
The way we serve all of our customers is with a platform that exposes the reputation of internet devices that are connecting to their businesses. What's different vertical to vertical is the types of problems that our individual customers are dealing with. Of course, that varies. But the base technology and infrastructure that we provide is the same. Let's say you're an online retailer. Would it be valuable to know that independent of the identity or transaction information that a consumer is giving you through an internet connection, what if you knew the device they're using had defrauded you in the past? Or would it be valuable to know that that device has defrauded some other iovation customer in a way that is something you care about?
Do you see much cross over between the other industries you serve and the dating industry?
We absolutely do. One thing to think about is that the bad guys, if you will, are much more prolific and much more active in their abuse. Someone who is spamming and advertising competitive services in the dating space are going to be doing it on every network they can get access to. The same thing if someone is running scams. We see a surprising amount of cross over in individuals and organized groups that are defrauding businesses in vertical A and are also defrauding businesses in vertical B. We also see linked frauds where individuals are using organizations to get data from users to steal identities. Then using those identities to launder stolen credit cards in a different vertical. So absolutely we see cross over within and across verticals we serve.
How does the iovation service work from the user perspective?
If you're a good average Joe and not causing problems at a particular online dating site you're going to see nothing. The only thing you might see is that the sites that you're using that are using iovation have less abuse and less folks who are scamming and spamming the community.
Dating sites that we're serving set up rules. They decide what's right and what's wrong and when an end user is violating one of those rules and that site decides to keep them out, now what they're going to see is when they try to connect to that business from any device they've used in the past they're going to get some kind of message saying they're not getting access. When they get frustrated and say fine I'll set up a new account they're going to find that doesn't work either. So they're going to have to completely start over and go out and use completely new identities and completely new devices.
How does it work from the the internet dating abuse managers side?
Let's start with value. Let's say you had a million dating accounts and the only way you had to understand the relationship between accounts was if someone started to use the same email address or physical address. But scammers go out of their way to make sure they're not using identity information that can correlate them. So we help you understand that account A and B are related because they've logged into your network using the same or related internet devices.
Many of our customers have sophisticated tools that are either 3rd party or they've built them themselves that catch problems. We can say, guys if you're concerned about one problem you better go look at these other 50 accounts because they have used the same physical devices to access your site and they are therefore related. So in this example we've provided the 50 to 1 uplift on their other tool, whether it be some automated tool or a manual process.
Then we stop the revolving door. On many social networks the only thing you need to access a site is an email address and account name. So its pretty hard to use many 3rd party services to protect yourself when that's the case. So once you've identified a problem and iovation has helped you realize that that is related to 50 other accounts and you've shut them all down, now how do you prevent the individual from simply coming back 10 minutes or 10 days later and trying to pretend to be somebody else? That's where we come in to say no, no guys don't allow this new account to be set up its coming from a device that has in fact defrauded you or done something inappropriate in the past.
We are building a shared infrastructure. So the other value that our customers see is that when a device is associated with a problem they care about that has taken place on some other iovation customer's site, we can bring that to their attention so they can act in whatever way they feel is appropriate. It's a real time platform that is answering reputation inquiries in under an 8th of a second. But it's not just that.
In addition our individual customers have access to our fraud team here in Portland. So we are working with them in terms of training and looking over their shoulders and helping run special reports to make sure they get the most out of our system and have their rules set up in an optimal way.
What is in the works for iovation? Are there any new announcements coming up?
Up until this point our reputation manager platform has been all about exposing problems with certainty, problems that our customers can react to in real time. We have been testing a risk scoring service for the last few months with a small group of about 20 of our customers. This is going to be a very nice compliment to our existing platform. Organizations will be able to react in real time to devices that we know have caused a problem for them, or some other iovation customer, as well as, flagging new account set ups or logins or other interactions on their site that we suspect for a number of different reasons from indirect relationships to problems. i.e account velocity, log in velocity and those types of things. We know from testing with the initial group that we're seeing some very good results that our current and future customers can look forward to.