Say it with me: Voice has a place in enterprise security and authentication

The human voice is unique, much like a fingerprint. It’s also impossible to forget, unlike a PIN or password, and with us all the time, unlike a key fob security token. The combination of security and convenience that voice biometrics provides is a major reason why so many banks, merchants, telcos and other large organizations have chosen it as a means of authentication.

Today, most of the organizations that have deployed voice biometrics technology have done so primarily as part of their interactive voice response (IVR) systems and contact centers. Voice biometrics in the contact center offers a convenient, yet still secure method of authentication – engaging a consumer in brief conversation – and eliminates the common frustration of PINs, passwords, and security questions.

In most cases, voice biometrics allows companies to deliver 80 percent faster authentication and make the experience more convenient, and more secure, for the consumer and the company. But if we look beyond the call center, voice biometrics technology is also being applied in a number of different ways for security and convenience from app authentication to credit cards.

cyber security

Mobile app authentication

Organizations are seeing an increase in customer service requests coming through the mobile channel, and consumers have come to expect this self-service option as well. With limited real estate on the screen, and a mobile user accessing the app, voice biometrics becomes an ideal solution for authentication by allowing the consumer to simply speak a simple passphrase to verify their identity, as opposed to tapping a PIN or password for access.

Most users are frustrated with existing authentication methods. In addition to alleviating this frustration, voice biometrics truly reinvents the authentication experience via a mobile app – often the main point of contact for a consumer with a service provider – again improving the customer experience without sacrificing security.

In terms of adoption, when businesses extend voice biometrics to their mobile apps, they also take advantage of consumer familiarity with virtual personal assistants and other speech-controlled services that people have come to expect on their mobile devices. These services have helped to make consumers comfortable with the concept of asking their phone – rather than a person at the other end – for information. Combine the convenience and comfort with the proven security, and we quickly see why voice biometrics as an entry point to a mobile app could become an ideal solution.

Password resets

Voice biometrics can also enable organizations to eliminate the cost and hassle that come with password/PIN resets. That benefit isn’t a minor one, either. Studies show that 20 to 30 percent of IT help desk calls are related to password reset issues, making this a key pain point for IT departments in enterprises of all sizes. In addition, our research shows that 67 percent of mobile users have to reset a PIN or a password at least once a month. Allowing an employee to reset her password quickly and easily simply by speaking eliminates the need to engage IT resources for assistance.

High-risk credit card transaction verification

Voice biometrics can be a secure and convenient solution to verifying high-risk credit card transactions (e.g. those outside of the customer’s spending patterns or geographic location). When a high-risk transaction is detected, a request to verify the transaction can be sent to the cardholder through an automated outbound call to the cardholder’s mobile phone. The cardholder is then asked to speak a common passphrase: “My voice signature authorizes this transaction.” Alternatively, if the transaction is unfamiliar, the cardholder can easily stop it by denying authorization, which could then flag it as suspect for the financial institution to investigate further.

Website transaction verification

The benefits of voice biometrics further extend to the web. For example, voice biometrics can be used to secure traditionally at-risk online payments such as first-time payments to a merchant, first-time money transfers to new payees and any transaction over $1,000 in value. When such transactions are performed, an automated outbound call is placed to the account holder’s mobile phone describing the transaction. If the payment is legitimate, the user is prompted to confirm the payment the same way he might confirm the credit card purchase.

These are just a few examples of how voice biometrics can be used to make consumer authentication experiences more convenient with something as simple, yet secure, as a spoken passphrase. Considering the benefits, it’s not hard to understand why nearly 35 million consumers worldwide use voice biometrics.

Bretislav Beranek is the enterprise solutions marketing manager at Nuance Communications.