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Phone Banking System Knows You by Your Voice

Software from RSA refers to a voiceprint -- essentially a sound bite of a voice -- and matches it to individual customers.

Just as fraudulent online transactions are making problems for financial institutions, phone banking transactions can create a similar mess. Now RSA, the security division of EMC, says it's found a way to identify customers who bank over the phone by using new authentication software.

Adaptive Authentication for Phone is based on RSA's voice biometrics product, which combines Vocent voice authentication technology that RSA gained through its acquisition of PassMark and a voiceprint engine from Nuance, a maker of speech-recognition technology. When a person calls a bank, the software refers to a voiceprint--essentially a sound bite of a voice--and verifies that the person is who he says he is. Banks can collect a voiceprint from customers through a regular phone call. The system generates a risk and authentication score for each call, flagging high-risk transactions, such as a transfer of funds from one account to another. Such transactions are verified with an additional layer of security, including secret questions--think "mother's maiden name"--for consumers.

Voice authentication products have been on the market for years but haven't had much commercial success. Vendors of voice authentication lacked complementary security products, but some larger security firms have since acquired those vendors and integrated the technology into their own products. "In order for voice authentication to be commercially viable," says Daniel Hong, an analyst at Datamonitor, "you need the backing of security companies."

Elena Malykhina began her career at The Wall Street Journal, and her writing has appeared in various news media outlets, including Scientific American, Newsday, and the Associated Press. For several years, she was the online editor at Brandweek and later Adweek, where she ... View Full Bio

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