Jean-Jacques Schwartzmann, and his search for good compromise between security, usability and privacy, depending on the service concerned.
“I genuinely consider myself to be an official member of France Telecom”, he said with a grin. Jean-Jacques Schwartzmann joined Orange Labs Caen in 1988. At that time, it was a SEPT (Joint Research Department of La Poste and France Telecom), and it was there that he entered into the game. “I started working on biometrics at the beginning of 1990, he told us. “Basically, I worked on signal processing and the implementation of algorithms for voice authentication.”
The year 1997 marked a turning point for him: SEPT was closed down, and its activities were transferred to the National Centre for Telecommunications Research (CNET). Research into biometrics was slowing down, and Jean-Jacques Schwartzmann moved into security at the beginning of the liberalisation of encryption techniques – a domain jealously guarded by the military – which allowed e-commerce to flourish. He joined a team headed by encryption expert Marc Girault, “Who introduced me to this discipline, and taught me a great deal”, and worked amongst other things, on the security of online payment platforms.
In 2000, Jean-Jacques Schwartzmann returned to his first love, and strived to “Embed biometrics within Orange services”. “With relative success, because of the numerous barriers to its use…”, he said. Biometrics still failed to take off, and Jean-Jacques Schwartzmann began to work on Orange Money, a money transfer and mobile payment service used in several African countries, which started in 2007.
Security, usability and privacy
To facilitate the use of the service by people with low literacy levels (not only non-graduates in communications, and innumerate too) he developed: “An App with an interface based on icons and speech, which masked the complexity of the entire transaction in text mode”. Unveiled at the Salon de la Recherche in 2010, the prototype attracted a great deal of interest, which prompted Jean-Jacques Schwartzmann and his team to produce several different versions integrating various technologies.
At the same time, the researcher became very interested in authentication, which he described “As a triangle made up of three vertices: security, usability and privacy. If one of these is strengthened, it is done to the detriment of the others.” For example, multi-factorial authentication increases security, but involves more complicated identification procedures for the users.
The work of Jean-Jacques Schwartzmann thus consists in part of finding a compromise between security, usability and privacy, depending on the service concerned. This is what he achieved with the demo “Behavioural Authentication”, a behavioural authentication solution he presented at the Salon de la Recherche in 2016, which has been the subject of two scientific publications.
He explained: “We authenticate a user by means of their habits on the telephone; how they interact with their touch screen, tap on the keys or use its apps…“ The same user behaviour becomes an authenticating data. The solution relies on algorithms that capture the usage data and combines them with anonymising algorithms that prevent the solution becoming intrusive.
A fantastic time for research
This innovation was developed in an environment that Jean-Jacques Schwartzmann describes as: “Very favourable to research, and very rich. There are innumerable high quality researchers at Caen. We also rely very heavily on Ph.D. students, who make up about a third of the team. We maintain a large number of contacts in the academic world, and take part in training by research, which is very rewarding.”
The researcher now lectures at ENSICAEN, mainly in applied cryptography and algorithms. “This allows me to have a pool of students, that I can eventually take on board as apprentices or interns.” One of these former students has made a huge contribution to Orange Money on the outside.
Since his arrival at Orange twenty eight years ago, Jean-Jacques Schwartzmann has experienced periods that were more of less favourable for research. “After a few years, and under the driving force of Nicolas Demassieux [Director of Orange Labs], we entered a fantastic period, with a lot of effort and commitment. A period in which great freedom was offered to researchers to train, and explore new territories”, he concluded.