UK Banks: It’s Time to Look Beyond Passwords

Consumer interest in biometric banking is very strong in the UK right now. According to one recent study, 56 percent of UK customers actually prefer biometrics to traditional authentication solutions like passwords — even though there is still some general confusion among customers about how biometrics work.

Another study found that British consumers are almost twice as likely to trust banks over government agencies with storing and keeping biometric data safe.

There’s just one problem:

In order for customers to move beyond passwords and use biometric technologies, banks need to provide access to them. And there are still some mixed feelings in the financial community about the role that biometrics should play in authenticating logins and transactions. Many people still believe that passwords are better for protecting consumer accounts.

Passwords vs. biometrics: The debate is on

Consumer demand has forced the conversation to move forward. Recently, the Digital Banking Club (founded by Intelligent Environments, the digital financial services providers) gathered at the Law Society, London to address the motion “This house believes the password will never be replaced by your body.”

The debate was chaired by Retail Banker International Editor and Digital Banking Club Chair, Douglas Blakey. Guest panelists from Forrester, Fujitsu and Intelligent Environments spoke for the motion, while representatives from Secco, DWC and MasterCard spoke against it.

Before the debate, 42 percent of people agreed that the password will never be replaced by the body. But after the debate, just 19 percent agreed with the motion.

Opinions about biometrics varied from expert to expert. For example, some panelists voiced concern over false acceptances (FA) and false rejects (FR) in biometric systems. There is a small risk, in other words, that a biometric solution could malfunction and grant access to an imposter or reject the right user. This problem, however, can be addressed by embedding multifactor security layers. If one layer is breached, a hacker will still have to enter further credentials.

What’s more, some technologies — like VoiceVault’s voice biometric identity verification — come with very low FA and FR rates. VoiceVault guarantees a FA rate of just 0.01 percent, and a FR rate of less than 5 percent. Not all biometric technologies will offer the same level of protection.

We can also argue that false acceptances and rejects happen all the time with passwords when accounts get hacked, or locked.

Will we ever see beyond passwords?

It largely depends on who you ask. Some of the panel at the Digital Banking Club debate, believe that while biometrics will be popular, passwords will never be completely replaced. However, other panelists argued biometrics will eventually replace passwords, but in time.

One panelist likened favoring passwords over biometrics to favoring a horse and cart over a car. The technology is outdated, inefficient and insecure. The same panelist mentioned a study from the Netherlands, conducted by Mastercard, where nine out of 10 participants indicated they would like to replace their passwords with biometrics. And almost 75 percent of users are convinced that biometric security will decrease fraud.

What was interesting is that every single panel member used their iPhone fingerprint scanners to access their debate notes on the podium…

So, should your bank abandon passwords right now?

For now, you don’t have to worry about replacing passwords altogether. But you can look beyond passwords and start  phasing them out with biometrics, which can coexist nicely with passwords.

Your best bet is to give customers a variety of different security options, and let them choose the ones they are most comfortable with. If you try to force any technologies on them, you are liable to experience negative blowback.

View highlights of the debate below:

06.04.17 The Digital Banking Club Live Debate from Intelligent Environments on Vimeo.


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In Case You Missed It: BioConnect Talks Voice Biometrics at Money20/20

In a recent post, we explained how identity management provider BioConnect is using VoiceVault’s voice biometric identity verification software to enhance its universal identity management platform.

BioConnect users can now log into multiple accounts using just their voice — providing an easy, and convenient, authentication experience that is free of passwords and security questions.

Last week, BioConnect showcased their solution during a demonstration at Money20/20, one of the biggest financial technology events of the year.

BioConnect VP of Strategic Marketing & Global Alliances Bianca Lopes was joined on stage by her client, whose company is directly benefiting from their product. Attendees were able to see firsthand what a voice biometric-based login looks like.

Lopes also spoke about the need for identity management solutions that are agnostic of modality, device and identity. She explained how consumers today want to be able to authenticate using any device and modality. So merchants, banks, fintech startups and gateway companies need to be able to offer seamless authentication across multiple channels.

We recommend that you watch the brief presentation below, as it will give you a better overview of how companies are using voice biometrics to improve the login experience.

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This is What a Poor Login Experience Looks Like

Your business is striving to create optimal experiences across all customer touchpoints. And there is one area that needs some attention: your mobile login process.

What’s the problem with your current login setup? It’s based on username and password type entries. It’s an outdated, clunky and frustrating process, which also happens to be insecure.

Here is a common chain of events which can occur when a customer tries to login into his or her account:

  1. Forgets username/password: The average customer has many different online accounts. Most have varying username and password combinations which are difficult to remember.
  2. Fails security questions: What happens when a customer can’t remember a username or password? The customer must request help via email. Yet in order to receive assistance, the customer has to answer security questions correctly. This can create further complications.
  3. Tries random combinations: If a customer can’t get past the security questions segment, he or she will most likely attempt to enter random username and password combinations hoping to strike the right one. This is usually a last ditch effort.
  4. Gets locked out: Finally, the inevitable happens: The customer exceeds the allowed number of login failures, and gets locked out of the account. The customer must then call customer service. This adds even more time to the login process. In some cases, the customer must wait until the following business day to speak with customer support, or wait 24 hours to try again.

As you can see, this type of login system does little to promote a positive customer experience.

Conversely, a voice biometric-based login is much simpler. All the customer has to do is speak a short phrase into a mobile microphone.

That’s all it takes. If the voiceprint is an exact match, the customer will be allowed into his or her account.

So let’s bring your mobile identity verification strategy into the 21st century. Click here to learn more about how VoiceVault, a global leader in voice biometrics, can help.


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How Are Voice Biometrics Used in Call Centers?

Contact center fraud is a major problem that enterprises everywhere are struggling to mitigate. Research shows, for instance, that 30 percent of cross-channel fraud is conducted through social engineering attacks in call centers. This is a method of hacking that involves assuming someone else’s identity in order to convince a live agent into surrendering account information over the phone.

This is especially common in the financial services industry, where sensitive information is often protected through outdated security methods like passwords and security questions.

So, how can you eliminate fraud in your contact center? As explained in a recent video from VoiceVault and its interactive voice response (IVR) partner Enacomm, voice biometric identity verification has emerged as a proven solution that contact centers can use to stop fraudsters dead in their tracks.

How does this verification process work? As an example, Enacomm’s IVR solution, Eva, now uses voice biometrics software to authenticate end users over any type of phone (this includes mobile or landline/VoIP). When an end user dials into a contact center, he or she is greeted by an automated agent who then asks the customer to repeat a series of four numbers. Upon repeating the correct numbers, the caller is allowed to proceed with his or her transaction. If, however, there is a discrepancy, the caller is denied access.

Eva also allows call center representatives communicating with customers via text message to send talkback links—links to a mobile Web browser for authentication—so a call is not always needed. This saves time for the customer.

Are you interested in learning more about how your contact center can use VoiceVault to reduce fraud in your contact center? Click here to go to our section for developers.

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The Difference Between Active and Passive Voice Authentication in Contact Centers

Once you decide to invest in voice biometric identity verification for your contact center, you’ll have a decision to make: You can either choose to implement an active enrollment process, where the customer submits a voiceprint series of specific statements, or you can choose to install a passive system where the customer submits a voiceprint during a standard conversation.

In an active voice biometric solution, the customer will recite up to five specific phrases into the phone, which will establish his or her unique voiceprint. This type of enrollment is considered “active” because the user must knowingly submit a specific phrase that will be used for future authentication purposes. The user’s voiceprint is then compared to his or her enrollment samples every time he or she subsequently dials into the contact center.

Passive voice biometric identity verification, by comparison, also requires a user to enroll by submitting a unique voiceprint during initial registration. Unlike active voice biometric enrollment, however, passive enrollment does not require the customer to recite a specific phrase. It works by recording a user’s unique voiceprint during an initial conversation, which typically needs to last about 45 seconds. Then, the user’s voiceprint can be compared to that voiceprint the next time he or she dials into the contact center.

Which is the better solution? Active voice biometric identity verification uses far less data during enrollment, which means your business will not have to store as much information. This means that the active method is more scalable, as it requires less storage capacity, and computing and processing power than the passive method.

It’s also more accurate for authenticating individual users, but less adept at identifying and reporting fraudsters.

If your business is looking to intercept fraudulent callers, you are advised to roll out a passive solution and fortify the technology with additional security features like passwords and personal identification numbers.

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Key Takeaways From FindBiometrics’ Feb. 19 Webinar


There has never been a more exciting time to be a part of the rapidly-evolving voice biometrics industry. As Senior Analyst of Opus Research Dan Miller explained during a Feb. 19 webinar titled “Voice Biometrics in a Multi-Modal Future,” which our own Executive Vice President Julia Webb took part in, there has recently been exponential growth in regard to the implementation and enrollment of voice biometrics across many different verticals.

What’s driving this growth? There are a few reasons according to Miller: the technology has proven to be effective, it’s highly scalable and it’s ideal for use in mobile applications. Voice biometrics, for instance, don’t require expensive fingerprint sensors, which means they can be deployed a wider variety of devices. Every mobile device, after all, comes with a built- in microphone.

“What’s been amazing is to see patterns of adoption among financial institutions, government entities and telephone companies (the largest implementation happens to be at a Turkish mobile company),” said Miller. “We’re also just starting to see more growth in the North America and U.S. market.”

Miller pointed to Opus Research’s 2014 Voice Biometrics Census, which shows that the financial industry currently holds the lion’s share of voice biometrics deployments, at 32 percent. Close behind is government and public security at 31 percent. Telecommunications account for 12 percent of total deployments, while healthcare counts for 4 percent.

The webinar went on to highlight several important issues and challenges currently happening in the industry. Here are some key takeaways:

Privacy is still a challenge: The voice biometrics industry is still struggling with privacy concerns due to the fact that many people are concerned about the collection and storage of sensitive biometric information. It’s critical, as Webb explained, to obtain customer or citizen consent before engaging in the practice.

“That can be accomplished through a conversation with a call center agent, with an IVR or presented in-text in a mobile application” she said.

In some countries, it’s also important to provide a reason for collecting and storing biometric information. In other words, if a customer terminates affiliation with an organization, there needs to be a process in place for removing that data.

Not all voice biometrics solutions are equal: A major challenge causing problems is the environmental aspect of the technology. Just like dirt and grime is a problem for fingerprint biometrics sensors, voiceprints can be clouded by surrounding noises. It pays, therefore, to invest in a solution that is capable of operating in an audibly challenging environment.

The user experience is still key: A voice biometrics solution ultimately needs to be user friendly in order to be widely implemented and used. Voice biometrics make it possible to verify end user identities without having to type in long, cumbersome passwords. This creates a much better user experience, which means more people are liable to use it across the enterprise.

Are you interested in learning more about voice biometrics? Learn more about each of our solutions.


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Interview: Voice Biometrics as Alternative to Passwords

In this new interview during Money 20/20 2014 with Mobile ID World, Julia Webb, VoiceVault’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, discusses how voice biometrics is utilized as an alternative to cumbersome passwords for identiy verification within mobile apps. VoiceVault’s ViGo provides the same level of security as fingerprint technology without the use of any specialized hardware; all a device needs is a microphone.


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ViGo by VoiceVault: Watch the Video

Imagine the madness of a morning commute to work. You have a coffee in one hand and your cell phone in the other. You really want to stop to check the balance of your bank account, but you can’t stop for even one second.

As pointed out in a recent short video on the VoiceVault site, entering passwords on the go can be a real pain. This can be very difficult, and can often lead to getting locked out of your account. But when you use ViGo by VoiceVault, all you have to do is enter a short phrase and you will gain access to your account.

Here are a few examples of common phrases that you can select to speak over your mobile device:

  • VoiceVault knows me by the sound of my voice
  • Musicians often play instruments in a group
  • People carry umbrellas when it is raining
  • There are twenty four hours in a day
  • Ice and steam are different forms of water
  • The Olympic games are held every four years

Voice biometric identity verification is a secure, standardized and simplified way that you can protect your information without having to remember lengthy passwords that contain upper and lower-case numbers, numeric symbols and special characters. In fact, you don’t even have to remember a phrase. The software is built to register a user’s voice when it is spoken, which makes it hack-proof and easy to use.

Learn more about ViGo by VoiceVault and watch the video today:

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VoiceVault delivers a mobile message at SpeechTEK 2013

Now that the dust has settled from a very successful SpeechTEK event for us in New York, we can share with you an interview with our VP of Sales and Marketing, Julia Webb.

In the interview, you’ll hear Julia talking about how we’re promoting the use of voice biometrics for identity verification and also, crucially, how VoiceVault is supporting mobile app development initiatives. Something we are very proud of.

VoiceVault’s Julia Webb: The SpeechTek 2013 Interview from Steve Nathans-Kelly on Vimeo.

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