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Voice 'fingerprints' may plug call-center security leaks

Brandon Butler | Jan. 10, 2013
You've heard such stories. Mat Honan, a reporter for Wired magazine had almost his entire digital life erased when a fraudster used social media account information to trick Apple and Google into allowing him access to Honan's account information.

The move was a natural progression for NICE Systems, says Sheila McGee-Smith, a unified communications analyst. NICE focuses on banking and financial institution security, which is where it developed the voice biometrics technology, now it's broadening the technology to serve its contact center business.

Contact center service providers are beefing up their systems in specialized ways. One trend is that instead of subjecting all customers to these enhanced security procedures, alerts are created to identify which callers should be screened for additional authentication. For example, caller ID systems can alert the call center agent to whether the caller is calling from an unknown number. Queries of the phone system can inform the call center as to whether a stolen cell phone is being used. If a flag is cued, then the call center operator may take additional authentication measures, such as using the voice biometrics. Don Van Doren, president of Vanguard Communications, a unified communications consultant, adds that voice biometric systems can have flaws too - weak connections, cell phones and having a robust voice registry of criminals are all challenges

Most of this security work is done by specialized third-party vendors though and not the major contact center service providers, says Van Doren. "It's a very specialized area, and frankly it's a distraction for the vendors," he says. The Ciscos Avayas and Siemens of the world have bigger fish to fry managing the migration from PBX to next-generation, mobile-first UC systems. They leave security up to customers to pursue with niche providers.

Vendors in the space include Nuance on the voice recognition side while providers like TrustID have caller ID services. Inscoe believes this could all change soon though. If attacks become more frequent and losses for organizations mount, more customers will look for security tools for the contact center and vendors will respond, she predicts.


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