The firm said that conversations around biometrics are all too often focused on where it can fail.
The firm said that conversations around biometrics are all too often focused on where it can fail.

Biometrics firm Nuance has said that biometrics have reached their “coming of age” in terms of usefulness to enterprises in mitigating fraud.

At a roundtable of journalists hosted in London yesterday morning, the firm said that conversations around biometrics are all too often focused on where it can fail.  

The company recognises biometrics' inherent flaws: struggling to identify people in noisy environments who are using voice recognition, or failing to authenticate someone using a finger scanner thanks to dirt in the device, when used as a stack of defences, can be used as a case to dismiss biometrics.

There are a few examples of the media misrepresenting biometrics too. Prime example: the BBC using twin brothers to evade detection of HSBCs “my voice is my password” voice recognition system.

What further exacerbates the problem is that there are numerous examples of where a failure to authenticate might lead to ‘cart abandonment' in the e-commerce space, for example, and consequently lead to lost revenue for the company.

Biometrics, it is commonly argued, add further frustration rather than adding ease of use which is what every consumer might expect from a modern product.

Although a biometrics company encouraging other companies to buy biometrics products should come as no surprise, it raised a valid point: fraud losses are expected to increase 21 percent over the course of 2017, according to Infiniti research.

For context, the UK's Annual Fraud Indicator says the cost per year of fraud to the UK is stood at £193 billion. An extra 21 percent would push that figure up to £233.53 billion.

This is where Nuance says biometrics could help. Internal research from the company claims 74 percent of tier-one financial institutions and 76 percent of telcos still exclusively use knowledge-based authentication to secure transactions in contact centres.

Knowledge-based questions such as “what is your mother's maiden name” are  susceptible to a range of attacks, such as social engineering, cyber-attacks, and plain guessing.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics say there were “3.8 million fraud and cyber-crime cases” last year, so there is an obvious need for better ways to mitigate fraud.

Ravin Sanjith, programme director, Intelligent Authentication told the roundtable: “Few would argue that biometrics are a silver bullet. As a method of authentication it has many ways in which it can be broken. But, when used as part of various different methods of authentication, it can enhance accuracy to ensure fraudsters aren't getting through to customer service representatives in call centres”.

The crux of Nuance's argument lies in the fact that voice biometrics not only improves the customer experience by reducing the time and effort in authenticating, but also improves security and reduces fraud in call centers by detecting fraudulent callers, such as when a fraudster tries to access numerous different accounts, one after the other.

When unsuccessful with one call center agent, a fraudster will typically then hang up, and call again only to be answered by someone differentor try to access another person's account. but now the fraudster's voice is marked by the system, and the voice biometric system is able to stop it getting any further with anyone else.

Voice biometrics can also detect things like synthetic speech and recordings made to sound like someone else, and eliminates attackers' ability to use social engineering. .

And the numbers speak from themselves: Nuance says a “top five” UK bank it works with saw a 59 percent reduction in account takeovers within 30 days of deploying voice biometrics.

More than 1,500 cases of fraud totalling almost £4 million were stopped in just the first eight months of voice biometrics being deployed.

In a press release, Robert Weideman, executive vice president, general manager, Enterprise Division at Nuance said: “Fraud continues to be a serious global problem, and it is having a major impact on consumers. Enterprises have a real opportunity – today more than ever – to take a more aggressive stance when it comes to fighting fraud. They must do this not only to drive down the exorbitant costs related to fraud, but also to rebuild consumer trust. The damage caused by fraud is not just restricted to the financial cost – the reputational damage can last far longer.”