19 April 2004

Biometrics Add Security in Insecure Times

Biometrics Add Security in Insecure Times: "

Clients of Houston-based Aim Investment Services don't have to worry about remembering passwords or PIN codes when seeking information about their portfolios over the phone. That's because last year, Aim became the first mutual fund firm to adopt Nuance Verifier 3.5, a voice-recognition authentication system from Menlo Park, Calif.-based Nuance Communications.

Rather than typing ID numbers and passwords on a telephone keypad, an end-user of this voice biometrics technology simply speaks into the phone and the system confirms his or her identity by examining voice patterns.

'It's kind of cutting edge technology, using somebody's voice print,' explains Jesse Dean, an assistant vice president of Aim Investment Services. 'It's more secure than a PIN and easier to use.'

To sign up for voice authentication, investors call into the integrated voice-response system and are prompted through a series of phrases, after which the system creates a voiceprint. When investors call back in the future, they simply provide their Social Security number, and the system compares the voice with the information on file to determine a match.

An Eye to Customer Service and Security

'People really like it,' Dean says of the voice-authentication system, which is deployed through DST Systems' IVR platform. It has resulted in a 20 percent reduction in call duration and a 15 percent increase in the automation rate, according to Dean. And, from a security standpoint, he says, 'We feel very comfortable with voiceprint.'

In an age when investment firms must constantly fight hackers and protect their clients from activities like identity theft, the security benefits of voice authentication are not small concerns. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission received 500,000 complaints about fraud and identity theft. Losses exceeded $437 million."

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