Speech Technology Magazine

 

Chuck Buffum and Jeff Scheel of Vocent

Posted Feb 1, 2005
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Q. Vocent's products seem to be focusing more toward a multi-factor approach to voice authentication, how do the products accomplish this?
A. JS:
We believe that no single factor is safe enough for authentication, so we utilize all the available factors within the context of a natural business call. These might include the Calling Line ID (CLI), spoken content (account numbers, customer specific data, etc.) and voiceprint tokens.  If appropriate, we can also track the authentication history of each caller and use that information for behavioral analysis as another factor.

Q. What is important to the success of any voice authentication deployment?
A. CB:
There are two primary characteristics in successful deployments.  First the consumer is provided with an appropriate benefit statement that causes them to opt in.  Obviously, if this part is not done well, users never engage and the project is a quick failure. Second, the dialog must balance the convenience objective of customer service with the security objective of the security department.  When this is done well, within the context of a natural dialog, the system is a success.

Q. What do you feel is driving enterprises to integrate voice authentication?
A. JS:
Identity theft has become very visible in the past few years, making business executives more aware of the fragile nature of customer trust and the necessity to guard that trust to acquire and retain customers.  Our voice authentication solutions provide a quick and effective safeguard for protecting the accounts and the privacy of customer data from identity thieves and social engineers accessing accounts through the telephone. As a result, our customers are well positioned competitively as they offer superior protection to their customers, strengthening that trust relationship.

Q. What is the market momentum for voice authentication solutions?
A. CB:
A few years ago, we all focused on the voiceprint technology and tried to prove that it was ready for market acceptance.  That didn't work very well.  Now that we have focused our products and our messages on effectively solving business problems, we are seeing market momentum for both employee facing and consumer solutions.  We are still very early in this market, but the momentum is palpable.

Q. What value does Vocent and its customers gain from the recent announcement of a partnership with Intervoice?
A. CB:
Intervoice is a genuine "anchor tenant" in the call center market.  They hold significant market share and have a great list of marquee customers in finance, telecommunications, retail and healthcare markets, in the U.S. and internationally.  For Vocent, this partnership means we gain a fantastic go-to-market partner with outstanding market presence and breadth.  For Intervoice, the partnership provides a best of breed security solution to add into their customer base and a new offering to attract new customers.

Q. How does a company become partners with Vocent?
A. CB:
  At Vocent, we know what we do best, which is developing and deploying the very best voice authentication solutions in the world.  We choose to partner for everything else, from speech technology to telephony/call control to reporting and analytics.  If a company out there has some value to add, we are listening.

Q. Where do you see voice authentication going in the future?
A.  JS:
We see voice authentication expanding in multiple dimensions.  The speaker verification vendors will continue to improve the raw accuracy of the engines and we'll continue to improve the security and usability of the multi-factor authentication.  We also expect to see voice authentication go mainstream, so that nearly every transaction conducted over the phone (or emerging hybrid phones) becomes strongly authenticated.  I'd see the eradication of the PIN and the agent questions about your family history and Social Security number.

Q. Vocent recently appointed Kevin Mitnick to its advisory board. How will Vocent apply his past as a famous hacker to benefit their security solutions and how did his involvement come about?
A. JS:
We are very excited about Kevin joining our Advisory Board.  He brings a hacker's perspective to every discussion and helps us identify security exposures in our solutions and close them before they ever get to a customer.  He is in high demand as a "vulnerability" consultant, so he keeps us on the leading edge of social engineering and other security exposures.  He has been outstanding these first few months at identifying new niches where our products can be effective in corporations.  He will also be speaking for us at a few events to help senior executives understand and combat their security exposures.

Q. What steps and processes in the design and implementation of the authentication solutions will he be involved in and how much?
A. CB:
Each voice authentication solution must be configured to meet the security and convenience tradeoffs of a particular client deployment.  Like any other speech application, the persona must fit the business transaction.  Beyond that, each company has unique security requirements and processes that must be implemented.  And in these days of ever growing regulation on business, we are often required to provide audit trails and reports to support compliance reporting.  On the surface that might sound rather daunting, but having been through this many times before, we find we can guide our customers through the design process in a matter of two weeks or so, and are typically fully implemented and ready for production in two to three months.

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