Toronto-based password management firm 1Password has reached a $6.8 billion valuation after one of the biggest funding rounds in the history of the digital security industry.
The $620 million Series C funding round was led by Iconiq Growth and featured contributions from Accel, Lightspeed Ventures, and Tiger Global. It also saw the participation of A-list Hollywood celebrities including Ryan Reynolds, Robert Downey Jr., and Scarlett Johansson.
It’s a flashy group of supporters for tech company focused on an old and archaic security tool. But 1Password seeks to revamp password-based security through a platform that lets end users store complex passwords behind a single master key, helping to combat the endemic issues of the use of simple passwords vulnerable to brute force attacks, and the reuse of the same password across multiple sites and apps.
1Password also distinguishes itself with a focus on enterprise security, enabling corporate IT managers to see which apps employees download without permission, and to lock them out of digital assets after they depart the company.
And 1Password isn’t exclusively about password-based security. Like other password manager platforms, 1Password has increasingly integrated support for biometric authentication. It has supported fingerprint-based authentication on iOS and Android devices for years, and enabled Face Unlock support on the Google Pixel in 2019. More recently, 1Password enabled biometric authentication for desktop users.
The support for biometric authentication would seem to be an acknowledgement of its heightened security and convenience for end users, but the technology also appears to be the source of an uneasy tension in 1Password’s value proposition. Speaking to CNBC about the company’s latest funding round, CEO Jeff Shiner suggested that biometrics are not always as secure as passwords, asserting, “If anybody ever got a copy of your fingerprint or your face, you can’t change that.”
The objection of biometrics’ irrefutability has been addressed by many identity specialists through the development and deployment of sophisticated liveness detection technology, which can tell the difference between a genuine fingerprint or face and a spoof artefact created from stolen biometric data. The topic was recently discussed in the audience Q&A section of the recent webinar “10 Reasons to Switch to Frictionless Access Control,” which is available to watch on-demand.
It’s a message that undercuts 1Password’s growing support for biometric authentication. But 1Password is growing itself, with Shiner saying the company plans to double its workforce this year; and the password manager’s stature in digital security is likely to rise alongside growing enthusiasm for biometric authentication, which means 1Password’s management will be compelled to find a way to resolve the tension between passwords and biometric security going forward.
January 20, 2022 – by Alex Perala