Banks looking at voice biometrics for security

Some banks in the country are in discussion to introduce voice biometrics as an option for authenticating phone banking. For banks, the main attraction of voice authentication is that this does not require deployment of infrastructure — unlike in the case of fingerprint or iris recognition — as mobile phones are widely available. Banks are in talks with Nuance, a company specializing in voice recognition and whose technology powers Apple and BlackBerry phones. While phones use speech recognition which is still evolving, voice recognition is a different technology altogether and more reliable than using PIN, according to Advait Deshpande, senior product manager (biometrics and security), Nuance Communications.

“A voiceprint is a hashed string of numbers and characters that represent how specific an individual’s voice rates on a host of characteristics being measured. As such, a compromised voiceprint has no value to a hacker. It cannot be used to authenticate a system, nor can it be used to reverse-engineer someone’s voice,” said Deshpande. “Globally, Nuance has several customers that have deployed voice biometrics commercially. In India, we are in talks with leading financial institutions and telecom companies for deploying voice biometrics.” It is not clear whether voice authorization will replace telephone PIN or be an additional authentication factor. In most electronic payments, RBI has asked banks to put in place multi-factor authentication. For instance, in cards, an individual has to provide the physical card, a signature and — very soon — a pin number to authenticate transactions.

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