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Anti-virus firm Avast acquires decentralized identity startup Evernym


Evernym, a foundational company in the self sovereign identity movement, has been acquired by cybersecurity firm Avast. The identity startup is best known as the partner in IATA’s TravelPass for COVID health credentials, but it’s also behind several other high profile initiatives. For example, it contributed the initial open source code to Hyperledger Indy, which underpins the Sovrin network.

Avast claims over 435 million online users and plans to roll out products based on Evernym technology in 2022. The acquisition is expected to close mid-December, but no deal terms were announced. The company raised a seed round of $8.5 million in 2017 and an $8 million Series A in 2019, including backing from Barclays.

If a company with Avast’s reach plans to provide the technology, this could be a breakthrough moment for decentralized identity. Several other companies have adopted the terminology, but unlike Evernym, they haven’t always been true to the principles of genuinely guarding individual privacy.

Self sovereign identity enables the user to keep control of their data, which could avoid situations like the Equifax breach if widely adopted. Some identity implementations are weak in using a single identifier for an individual that enables corporates to cross-link data from different sources. Evernym’s implementation carefully ensures that each interaction has a unique identity. For example, an identifier for a college qualification can’t be easily linked to a COVID credential unless the individual chooses.

So far, Avast’s statements are consistent with Evernym’s mission. “Over 60% of the world’s population has internet access today yet we don’t have adequate provisions in place for these people to prove who they are online,” said Avast CEO Ondrej Vlcek. “The result is that identity theft, online fraud and account takeovers are growing rapidly, as does mass-scale digital tracking and surveillance.”

He continued, “Our vision for digital freedom is to enable people to manage and retain control over their personal data so that they can interact and transact safely, privately and with confidence. Decentralized digital identities are a key component of that vision.”

Meanwhile, Evernym also co-founded the Covid Credentials Initiative, which is now part of Linux Foundation Public Health (LFPH). Another project where it was co-founder is the Trust Over IP Foundation.