Last month, Digital Security Company Aura launched its new consumer security and identity theft protection service to the public. Over the past 25 years of consumer technology, the general public has had its fair share of computer security and virus protection services. Grudgingly you might be thinking of Norton or McAfee software services that are downloaded on your device, probably not by choice, and despising the need for another security service to squeeze itself into the problem, not as the solution.
I believe Aura is a modern digital security platform that steps into the modern digital problems we have today and away from services like Norton and McAfee that still sell virus protection in a box. I think Aura’s offerings to the consumer could change much of the way consumers view security on the internet and the way we do security on the internet in unique ways. Let’s take a look at who Aura is, what it offers, and many of the problems that it is trying to solve.
The need for a digital security platform for consumers
The internet is the most unique and to many the greatest human inventions ever. I doubt I must tell you that, as you, the reader, experience this every day. We live in the digital era where the average consumer spends 6+ hours online a day, has ten connected devices in the home, and has at least 90 accounts online. It is quite honestly amazing. But just as you can be on the top of a mountain in Colorado and see the incredible God-given view while being surrounded by life-threatening dangers, the internet is full of dangers.
The sad reality is that many of these dangers are not obvious to the average consumer. The degree to which a bad actor can steal your identity or financial information online is always changing. Security is a moving target, and the creativity and new schemes that keep emerging are always changing. Another factor that plays into this is the sheer fact that bad actors do it for financial gain. If you have ever watched the YouTuber Kitboga, the scammer’s methods are always about the money, and the scammers always target older and less-tech savvy consumers.
To throw out some numbers that Aura has gathered, only 30% of consumers can identify phishing password managers, online scams, and other types of malware. The amount of money lost to identity theft for Americans in 2020 increased by 83% YoY to $3.3 Billion. In the first quarter of 2021, identity theft grew tremendously by 230% from the year prior, with much of that having to do with the dramatic increase in government assistance. Government benefits fraud alone rose by 4,000%. These numbers tell me that whatever bad actors are doing to compromise the financial security of consumers is working, and there is a need for a personal and financial security service.
Aura is 2 years old with 20 years of experience
Aura is the product of five companies acquired and merged in the past year and a half. You can read hereabout iSubscribed and Intersections rebranding. In July of 2019, Intersections Inc. and iSubscribed combined its services and renamed itself Aura. Intersections have been around since 1996 and were one of the first companies to provide identity theft protection with its solution, Identity Guard. Identity Guard has protected over 47 million customers and resolved 140 thousand cases of identity fraud and has teamed up with IBM Watson to help detect threats more efficiently. iSubscribed is the company that Hari Ravichandran, now CEO and Founder of Aura, founded after his experience with identity theft in 2014. The following year in July of 2020, Aura acquires Pango, FigLeaf, and PrivacyMate. Pango is a privacy and security company with premium subscription services, including Hotspot Shield, 1Password, and Robo Sheild. Figleaf is a Privacy Control service that helps people be private online. PrivacyMate is a subscription service that monitors and prevents the collection, sale, and widespread dissemination of private personal information. All of these acquisitions and mergers pull in years of experience and services that already have customer backings.
Aura has raised over $450 million from investors and its projected $220 million in annual revenue, and its already 1.7 million customers. The company announced a $150 million Series E funding round led by Warburg Pincus, a leading global growth equity firm, back in June. After its most recent funding round, Aura is valued at over $1 billion, thanks to investors from WndrCo’s Sujay Jaswa and Jefferey Katzenberg.
Aura’s offerings are built on three general principles: personal identity, financial identity, technology, and devices, with the core of these principles being financial loss. Aura launched its services back in June, and although I will be running through its offerings, I will not be reviewing them since some of its offerings are not out until later this year. Aura has financial transaction monitoring, credit scores and reports, lost wallet recovery, Dark web Scans, Data Clean-Up, Wifi Security VPN, Multi-device Protection, and Antivirus software. Aura’s UI has a new modern look and comprehensive with low friction to the user.
Aura has three plans for different levels of security and protection. The Basic plan includes most of the features that protect against Identity theft. It has personal information and ID monitoring that allows the user to be notified of compromised personal information. It will also tell you if another person used your SSN or ID to open a line of credit. Aura also uses services like DarkWebIQ to monitor and check for compromised accounts and passwords. The second half of the year will feature a password manager to manage the 90+ accounts better that consumers have on average. It desires to make a more consumer-friendly password manager that encourages users to turn on and use 2FA for accounts and logins. The Basic plan also is covered by Aura’s $1,000,000 identity theft and fraud insurance policy. The Ultimate plan, the highest of the three tiers, includes Home Title and Address Monitoring to keep bad actors from stealing your home title or other types of mail fraud. It also notifies you if criminals and court records have used your identity.
The Total plan, the second-highest tier, includes everything listed for basic, including financial fraud protection features. Aura is partnered with Experian to give real-time alerts across all three major credit bureaus Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. It also has transaction monitoring with the help of Plaid to monitor your transactions, create a dataset of your transactions, and detect abnormalities in your transactions. It will also give a monthly credit score and can lock your credit file from Experian. The Ultimate plan includes an annual Credit Report from all major credit bureaus in its financial fraud protection feature set. Aura also said it has been working with Privacy.com to give consumers a virtual card. Virtual cards work by giving your payment an alias card sing FinTech APIs so that you don’t have to have your payment methods on multiple different accounts and websites.
All three plans include a varying amount of device and network protection. Aura has desktop, iOS, and Android apps with a web browser dashboard that displays all of Aura’s information. Its Wifi security and VPN service, which uses “Wifi Security” and “VPN” interchangeably, uses the proprietary Hydra protocol from its Hotspot Sheild. I logged in to HotSpot Shield’s mobile app with my Aura account and used premium features to confirm this. Its desktop app also has antivirus that does a real-time scan of your device. Aura has a mobile antivirus app as well that I have yet to test.
Aura has 24/7 customer support with a dedicated resolution team. I called its 24/7 customer support and found that it helped solve my problem. I found that the lady I talked to had recently joined the call center, most likely from things opening back up. It has, on average, seven years of experience, and this is a huge asset.
With nation-state budgets and support, the bad guys have a higher chance than ever to rip consumers off. While there are never 100% guaranteed solutions, I think it’s important that consumers have more safeguards that are best-in-breed, simple to use, trusted with budgets that can keep pace with the bad guys.
Although Aura is not a well-known company brand, it is comprised of well-known companies and products and services on the leading and sometimes bleeding edge of personal and financial security. It has over 20 years of experience in identity theft protection and many robust feature sets that blow the competition out of the water.
It is going into a market that hasn’t been touched in a long time but is more in need of innovation and leadership than ever. Aura has collected jaw-dropping statistics that go after the financially vulnerable. Aura has made many big moves to address this market, and I think it makes all the right moves to become a critical tool in protecting personal and financial assets for many.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.