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Security and fraud predictions: 2021


Johannesburg, 09 Dec 2020
Read time 5min 10sec
Brett Beranek, Vice-President & General Manager, Security & Biometrics Line of Business, Nuance
Brett Beranek, Vice-President & General Manager, Security & Biometrics Line of Business, Nuance

Countless unsuspecting technology users are victims of a cyber crime or fraud each year. This number continues to increase during the pandemic, as online interactions such as banking and shopping take place in unprecedented volume. Against this backdrop, Brett Bernak, Vice-President and General Manager for the Security and Biometrics line of business at Nuance, offers his key cyber security predictions for 2021.

Forward-looking CISOs will transition to password-less authentication with the twin goals of customer convenience and enterprise security. Consumers want a digital experience that is easy, secure and free of passwords. Daily passwords and pins (eg, e-mail, ATMs) are near relics. As more consumers shift to online channels in order to bank, socialise, play and shop, users demand a more sophisticated and secure experience. Passwords have lulled consumers into a false sense of security for years, especially as the number and variety of devices on which apps are used skyrocketed, each requiring critical information to be entered repeatedly – and thus each instance an opportunity to track and steal that data. Companies will need to demonstrate to their customers that they take their security seriously. Consumers are now more conscious than ever of the risks surrounding their identity. They will start to demand more from the businesses they deal with. Organisations can’t afford to do things only based on ROI – better security is now a question of customer retention, loyalty and corporate social responsibility.

An integrated approach for fraud prevention and authentication will be the key to protection against flimsy device-side biometrics. Customers are going to demand security protocols that identify themselves in particular, not just someone who may have their identification. We are seeing a noticeable shift away from technology that does not authenticate the identity of the actual person interacting with security measures. It is no longer enough to authenticate passwords, pins or SMS confirmations, for example. That information is too easy to obtain. Biometrics such as voice recognition, behavioural recognition, fingerprints and eye scans are critical to a secure online presence. Thanks to years of interacting with smart devices, customers often already feel comfortable with fingerprint ID and facial recognition. Unfortunately, most of these device-side biometric authentication methods don’t have any real impact on stopping fraudsters because, firstly, it is challenging to determine who has created the biometric print, and secondly, the prints are limited to a specific device, making them difficult to leverage across multiple channels and impossible to port from one device to the next. Their “value” begins and ends with being free. It is server-side biometrics, such as voice biometrics, that will have results in both significant fraud prevention and frictionless, convenient customer experiences.

Cutting-edge artificial intelligence will enable biometrics to solve increasingly complex security challenges. Earlier this year, Telefónica, a Spanish multinational telecommunications company and one of the largest mobile network providers in the world, engaged Nuance to help them deploy voice biometrics to analyse the sound of clients’ voices to determine whether they are 65 or over. This critical determination helps the bank provide world-class bank anti-fraud protection to an age group that is highly susceptible to fraud. Harnessing state-of-the-art technology will allow organisations not only to prioritise or adapt services for specific customer demographics, but also strengthens fraud prevention efforts by providing additional biometric factors to consider.

Security will need long arms to protect against increased fraud brought on by remote work. As companies extend work from home indefinitely in what Harvard Business Review’s most recent cover tags as “The Work From Anywhere Future” (Nov-Dec 2020), fraud will only increase against remote workers and frontline agents, but remote work also represents a potential for increased occupational fraud. Unsupervised employees with access to PII have a new opportunity to defraud their employers and steal valuable information. Under increased pressure that difficult social and economic times brings, conditions are right for a surge in occupational fraud. Forrester Research echoes this sentiment, forecasting that 33% of data breaches will be caused by insider incidents, up from 25% today. Companies will need to work quickly to combat voice fakes (ie, ultra-realistic speech cloning) and deep voices (ie, the use of artificial intelligence to create speech, accents and tones – effectively, a fake voice) to seamlessly secure interactions with workers worldwide. Traditional security measures will also need to operate at peak performance with so many individuals outside an organisation’s firewalls.

Customer care will take a drastic shift to video/virtual settings. As virtual consultations, transactions and interactions become the norm between brands and consumers, digital channels will need to be as secure and convenient as if these interactions were happening in person. Video customer care is a trend that we are starting to see emerge as a result of COVID-19, and voice biometrics is a critical aspect of authentication and keeping customers safe. For example, IBK (Industrial Bank of Korea) has implemented Nuance’s voice biometric technology to ensure robust, sophisticated customer authentication as virtual transactions are rising significantly. Reporting 100% consistency in validation rates, IBK has been able to revolutionise the digital banking experience.

We can find comfort in a 2021 that shepherds greater digital security and peace of mind. Traditional ways of doing things, even ones so rudimentary and fundamental as the online password, no longer suffice. Biometric security systems based on verifiable traits such as one’s retinal scan, fingerprints and voice patterns will replace subjective codes all too easily stolen and misused. Adopters will make a quantum leap in their security protocols and find a smooth transition to a more secure digital presence.

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