Pandemic to speed up adoption of voice biometrics

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Although voice biometrics had already been in use by organisations prior to 2020, the pandemic has accelerated the need for reliable and safer user authentication for businesses across all sectors.

This is according to research firm Forrester’s “Best Practices and Trends: Voice Biometrics” report, which provides insights into the key drivers, challenges and trends around voice biometrics.

The report forecasts increased uptake of voice biometrics, primarily in customer-experience use cases and also for employees and businesses in the financial services sectors – as the COVID-19 pandemic heightens security risks for organisations and their customers across the globe.

Unlike passwords or other types of biometrics, voice is not static and already has numerous security features to combat fraud. Passwords may be vulnerable to replay attacks, stuffing, snooping and spraying, and fingerprint data is sold on the dark web, while voice biometrics are tough to crack, notes Forrester.

In addition, voice biometrics can substitute traditional authentication methods (cards, passwords, signature, fingerprint, etc) in security access control, allowing employees or business stakeholders safer entry into business premises.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for reliable user authentication, primarily in customer-facing use cases but also for employee- and business partner-facing use cases,” says Andras Cser, VP, principal analyst serving security and risk professionals at Forrester.

“Voice biometrics improve security, customer service and service delivery. Since voice biometrics use formidable replay attack prevention liveness detection techniques, they are much harder to compromise than other forms of authentication.”

Voice biometrics today are mainly used in call centres for registration, authenticating and authorising users on incoming voice calls; however, future use includes voice biometrics for authenticating users on outbound calls, as well as using voice biometrics in-apps to authenticate users to native mobile applications as well as Web applications, says Forrester.

Eliminating complex authentication

While the human voice is already the gateway to several services and applications that have become an important part of our daily lives, the voice print is expected to play a significant role in the banking sector, with several banks across the globe saying they are planning to rollout voice biometrics to offer customers new products and services without unnecessarily increasing risk or fraud rates.

Sean Ryan, senior analyst serving security and risk professionals, notes that given the shorter authentication times, customer service representatives (CSRs) are freed from struggling with authenticating customers to rather taking care of transactions faster and offering new products and services to existing clients.

“It’s not only customers who enjoy the benefits of voice biometrics, but also CSRs. Forrester’s interviewees tell us that voice biometrics combines easily with face and fingerprint biometrics, and suits low-cost, contactless authentication requirements well,” says Forrester.

Although the many benefits of voice biometrics are undisputed, the technology comes with a handful of challenges that must be resolved before implementation, notes the report.

This includes real and imaginary privacy concerns plaguing all biometrics, and contending with a range of new and existing legal and regulatory challenges.

“With high-profile breaches like deep fakes and artificial intelligence-faking audio for phone calls, it’s no wonder that users have privacy concerns around hackers stealing a voiceprint’s audio then using the audio for attacks.

“Organisations can mitigate these concerns by ensuring their voice biometrics solution only stores select, encrypted parameters of the registration template’s audio — which, in Forrester’s estimate, is the case for 90% of the modern voice biometrics solutions we hear about. Using text-independent voice biometrics further reduces the likelihood of fraudsters using recorded voices for attack,” notes Forrester.

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