Girton village website

Focus on Signify

Have you ever been a victim of identity fraud? Has anybody pillaged your bank or credit card account? Serious and upsetting as it is for an individual, think how damaging and costly it could be for a company or local authority if their staff's computer identities were to get into the wrong hands.

That is Signify's speciality - combating corporate identity theft. Its core business is the strong authentication of remote users' identities for companies and other organisations, large and small across the UK. Such companies need to ensure that access to information is freely available to the right people - and barred to everyone else. So for example, an international construction company needs to be sure that its site engineers in (say) Brazil can access the corporate network in the UK with total security, even if the local IT infrastructure is flaky. Nearer home, a local authority wants to provide its fieldworkers with full, confidential and up-to-date facts about planning applications, elderly tenants or problem families so that decisions can be taken speedily and accurately on the spot.

All these organisations know that standard passwords are easily guessed, stolen or snooped, and cannot be relied upon to validate the identity of a remote member of staff logging in from the home PC, airport or Internet café.

This is where Signify comes in. It can provide a client organisation with a two-factor procedure for validating the identity of any remote user, anywhere in the world. The authentication process has to be entirely secure, yet easy to use. The user combines his or her secret PIN with a 6-digit code, displayed on their key fob token. This one-time passcode changes every 60 seconds, and each code can only be used once - so it is immune from snooping and phishing attacks.

Using RSA SecurID technology, which has been proven in the largest banks and corporations, Signify delivers this strong authentication technology as a fully managed service which makes it affordable and accessible to smaller firms and public sector organisations. Signify's clients include financial and legal firms, pharmaceutical companies, local authorities, charities and NGOs, specialist consultancies, and high street retail companies. Authorised users can include suppliers, distant support workers, home workers and hot- deskers, contractors, travelling executives, major customers as well as key internal staff. They can obtain access sensitive material via the web, remote access servers, wireless networks and internal company systems. Most important, Signify also provides round-the-clock world-wide support for all its customers, so their users can self-solve problems directly, over a web or telephone call to Signify's fully automated help-desk.

The company does not sell to the end-user, but markets its services through specialist IT integrators and service providers. While the individual member of the public in Girton is not a potential client, firms with just a handful of users are included in Signify's client base. Signify's business mainly lies with small to medium-sized firms, which cannot justify their own dedicated data security department, but which wish to have a state-of-the-art comprehensive system, without the headache of having to purchase, install and maintain it from scratch.

Signify is very much a product of its era. Founded in 2000, it is the leading (and almost the unique) in its field worldwide, yet it only has a dozen employees. The "channel" approach to marketing ensures that the many implementers of Signify's products are separate from the company. Yet it is not a completely virtual organisation. Its base is the Old Mill House in Girton, roughly opposite the Baptist Church. Older Girton residents will recall that in the forties, farmer Frank Farey operated a flour mill here, although disappointingly, it was diesel-powered.

The rationale for the choice of Girton was remarkably personal. The founders were John Stewart and Dave Abraham, two experienced IT professionals, who had worked in Cambridge on several pioneering ventures, and who still run the company. Girton offered a congenial context for a start-up high-tech firm, and a link with Cambridge's science-driven environment. For John Stewart, it also offered the chance to live next to the job in the Red House on the High Street. He enjoys village life, and has played a part in several organisations in Girton such as the Cotton Hall project.

After seven years, the business model of Signify is proving itself, and the firm is becoming embedded in the village. Most members of staff, such as Chris Jenkins-Powell, Marketing Manager, and Kate Holden, Customer Services Business Manager, are drawn from surrounding villages, although the firm does not see itself ever becoming a major employer numerically.

What of the future for Signify? While its core business of secure authentication looks set to grow to a major extent under conditions of increasing concern over data integrity and protection, there are other areas of interest. Biometrics (iris or fingerprint scans) and smart card authentication are on the horizon, and the firm is also growing its international sales. There can be no doubt that Signify occupies a key position in a business sector that is certain to grow. From its surprisingly unpretentious and informal base in Girton, its business reaches out world-wide, and it is a leader in its field.

Name: Signify Solutions Ltd
Address: The Old Mill House, 90a High Street, Girton, Cambridge CB3 0QL
Telephone: 01223 472573

"Focus on Girton" is a series of occasional articles on the public service, commercial, charitable and other organisations of Girton for the information of local residents. Articles are written independently by members of the Editorial Team of Girton Parish News, with the consent and cooperation of the organisation concerned. They do not in themselves represent an endorsement of the products or services of the organisation. No connection exists between the publication of an article and any advertising in the GPN, and the article does not form part of any marketing or other promotional activity on the part of the organisation.