Smartphones: The New Frontier for Voice Biometrics

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (Voice Biometrics Conference) — Despite a number of problems with smartphones in their current form, mobile applications for voice biometric technology are likely to explode in the next year or two, according to a number of speakers at the Voice Biometrics Conference here May 4-5.

The trend, they said, will continue to be fueled by the growth in mobile banking applications. “Mobile banking is on the rise, and I see smartphones as the endpoint for banking,” said Bertrand Damiba, president and co-founder of SecuriMobile. With more than 160,000 apps available for the iPhone in the Apple App Store and about 60,000 available for Android phones, smartphone users can conduct many financial transactions—tasks like making purchases, electronic bill-paying, adding to pre-paid accounts, couponing, and transferring funds—with their mobile devices.

But despite their popularity, many of these applications are surprisingly insecure, according to Dan Miller, senior analyst at Opus Research. “There’s a lot you can do, but I do not see a lot of security in that,” he stated.

Douwe Mik, founder and CEO of IdentForReal, agrees. In fact, he called the smartphone “a goldmine for identity theft right now,” noting that many people store a lot of personal information on their smartphones. He also said that while the Windows Mobile platform is most susceptible to virus and malware attacks—just as the Windows operating system is on PCs—other mobile platforms are also vulnerable.

“We need more security,” said Nick Ogden, CEO of Voice Commerce Group.

But before that can happen, the speech and telephone industries will need to come together to overcome many of the security obstacles that dominate the smartphone market. Among those obstacles, Mik said, is the ease with which phone numbers can be spoofed, which is now hampering caller ID-based security systems. Other challenges are the many different platforms available, and fragmentation even within platforms. Perhaps most pervasive, though, is the challenge of usability, he said, but that’s what ultimately will make the smartphone the ideal candidate for voice security applications.

“If you do it right, people can enroll without any constraint on [a company’s IVR], and people can do it visually with a graphic user interface right on their phones.”

To truly move forward in mobile banking and other financial applications, voice biometrics technology vendors and financial industries that employ voice security applications will have to overcome a number of other challenges, speakers said during another panel discussion.

“A big problem is how to get the customer to give up his voiceprint,” said Dan Elvester, director of business development at credit reporting firm Experian.

Public perception is a huge challenge, as many consumers still view the technology as “Big Brotherish,” said Kolin Whitley, vice president of fraud solutions at Canadian credit reporting firm TransUnion. Then there’s the problem of trust, as many people still don’t trust these systems, he added.

Also helping voice biometrics along the road to greater adoption is rapidly increasing legislative pressure, with many government regulatory agencies starting to mandate multifactor authentication for many online and telephone financial transactions. That’s because knowledge-based questions, passwords, and PINS are proving ineffective by themselves, it was noted.

“With two-factor authentication, one of them can be voice,” Elvester said.

Whitley agreed. “When you look at something people carry around with them and it’s always available, that’s their voice,” he said.

But, voice biometrics “has to be secure, practical, cost-effective, less obtrusive, and feasible,” he argues. “It is convenient and practical, fast, allows for remote applications, is less invasive, the public is more willing to use it, it’s cost-effective.”

SpeechTek Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues