Replacing Passwords and PINs with Voice Authentication

Sandra Radlovački

Discover how voice biometrics thwarts security threats and improves customer experiences

Talkdesk Insights
Replacing Passwords and PINs with Voice Authentication

Voice biometrics technology uses a person’s voice to authenticate their identity. Thanks to sophisticated artificial intelligence, advanced voice biometrics is one of the most popular authentication methods among customers.

Indeed, a Unisys study shows that voice recognition ranks as the most preferred method for authentication (32 percent), followed by fingerprint scan (27 percent), facial scan (20 percent), and hand geometry (12 percent).

Such statistics perhaps illustrate people’s preference for convenience and familiarity when they need to prove their identity. Like their face or fingerprint, a person’s voice is a unique passkey that is always with them and something they don’t need to write down or memorize.

Building on this, let’s look at how contact centers can harness voice biometrics to reduce the risk of fraud and provide seamless, more convenient experiences.

The Superior Passkey: Voice

When considering authentication and accessing personal accounts or profiles, passwords and PINs immediately spring to mind.

Yet, as widespread as they are, passwords and PINs are one of the most vulnerable forms of user authentication. They often contain a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols that are reused across multiple accounts and infrequently changed.

For these reasons, passwords and PINs are highly prone to data breaches and cyberattacks, eroding consumer trust and creating reluctance when they are the only options available to secure an account.

On the other hand, voice biometrics circumvents these pitfalls of passwords and PINs. Think of it as a “passkey,” superior to a traditional “password.”

Emphasizing the importance of this distinction, Jennifer Bonacci, Product Marketer for Security and Compliance at Talkdesk, says: “It’s not a recording of what a person is saying, but rather a snapshot of the variables that make up the way they speak: their voiceprint.”

“Similar to a fingerprint, a voiceprint is unique to each person and is near-impossible for someone else to mimic.”

Because many of the underlying characteristics that make up a person’s voice remain the same, voice biometrics can even work when someone has a cold that is affecting the sound of their voice.

In the unlikely event that a person’s voice has changed so much that it’s unrecognizable, a ‘worst-case’ scenario would be the voice biometrics technology flagging the attempt as unsafe and asking for additional authentication steps to ensure account security.

How Voice Biometrics Thwarts Fraud

Voice biometrics can thwart an attempt by a malicious actor to access personal data using either the recording of a voice or deepfake technology. It does this by using AI and machine learning (ML) to pick up on data points inaudible to the human ear.

Not only does it tease out the variations in tone and tiny nuances that make up the whole of a person’s voice, it can also ‘hear’ the additional white noise that accompanies a recording, for example.

All of these factors work together to provide frictionless, safe, and reliable authentication.

“No one system is infallible,” says Bonacci, “But voice biometrics is one of the safest authentication methods out there.”

“And when you follow best practices by pairing voice biometrics with phishing-resistant multi-factor authentication (MFA), you augment the security of your data.”

So, even if somehow, someone does manage to mimic a voice well enough to bypass the voice biometrics system, they’d still be thwarted by other means.

Another way to help detect and prevent fraudsters is by incorporating both active and passive voice biometrics into the authentication workflow.

Active biometrics requires a user to repeat a specific phrase multiple times to be authenticated before speaking with an agent or gaining access to their account.

Meanwhile, passive biometrics provides a more frictionless experience as no separate authentication step exists. Instead, it works in the background, analyzing the person’s voice throughout a conversation to ensure they are who they say they are.

How Safe Is Data with Voice Biometrics?

There are a couple of myths surrounding voice biometrics regarding the safety of the data it collects.

Some people might feel uncomfortable using their voice for authentication because they feel like they are providing “a part of themselves” for business purposes. However, voice biometrics does not store the recording of a person’s voice. Instead, it holds the voiceprint, which is not made up by sound but by data points garnered from the sound of their voice.

Nevertheless, it’s imperative to ask customers to consent before storing any of their data; the same goes for their voiceprints. As Bonacci says:

“If you are considering using voice biometrics in your organization, be upfront with your customers about their ‘right to be forgotten’ and that they have the option to opt-in and opt-out depending on how comfortable they feel using their voice for authentication purposes.”

Furthermore, organizations must consider how customers’ voice data is stored when looking for a voice biometrics provider. The best option is to choose a provider that separates encrypted biometric data from personally identifiable information and stores it according to strict privacy and compliance laws.

Have You Implemented Voice Biometrics in Your Contact Centre Yet?

Voice biometrics keeps data safe while authenticating customers’ identities quickly and seamlessly, boosting real-time decision-making and lowering average handle time (AHT).

Being industry-agnostic, voice biometrics is becoming more widely adopted across contact centers to reduce fraud and improve customer and agent experiences.

Now, Talkdesk has taken authentication to the next level with a self-service authentication solution – Talkdesk Identity.

If you wish to learn more about the ins and outs of voice biometrics, start by getting to grips with Talkdesk’s voice biometrics kit.


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