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Written by: Laura Fitzgerald

Head of Brand and Digital Experience

It’s time to say goodbye to passwords! As voice authentication continues to gather steam across numerous verticals, we can likely expect it to become the next mode of authentication, with users being able to authenticate themselves using their voice instead of a random passcode. But how does it work and what are the benefits? Let’s find out!

How Voice Authentication Works

Voice authentication, or voice biometrics as it’s commonly known, is a security measure that identifies or verifies individuals based on the unique patterns and characteristics of their voice. 

This technology is rooted in the premise that every individual’s voice is distinctive due to the size and shape of their vocal cords and other physiological factors, as well as learned speaking habits and patterns. 

Think of it as a fingerprint but for your voice. In fact, voice authentication is already being used in many industries, most notably banking and finance. Here’s a step-by-step on how it works.

1. Extracting Features

When a person speaks, their voice generates sound waves which are converted into digital data by a microphone. 

Once captured, the voice sample is processed to extract its unique features. These features can include pitch, frequency, tone, cadence, and several other attributes. This process transforms the raw voice data into a format that can be analyzed and compared.

2. Creating the Voiceprint

This digital data is then used to create a voiceprint. It’s just a signal that serves as a digital representation of a person’s voice characteristics. It’s entirely unique, so no two voiceprints are ever the same. And, because of inherent differences, it’s very hard to emulate a person’s digital voiceprint. 

3. Storage

Voiceprints are generally encrypted and stored on secure servers. The robust encryption ensures that malicious actors can’t gain access or misuse them in any way. 

4. Comparing Voiceprints

Now, when a user authenticates their voiceprint, the software captures their voice sample and processes it. This new voiceprint is then compared to the stored voiceprint. Advanced algorithms measure the similarity between the two voiceprints.

5. Authentication

Once the comparison is complete, the software makes the decision. If the newly extracted voiceprint closely matches the stored voiceprint, the user is authenticated. If not, the authentication attempt fails. 

The decision can be binary (accept or reject) or it can produce a similarity score. In the case of a score, if it surpasses a predefined threshold, the user is authenticated.

There are a few caveats, however. For starters, real-world environments often introduce background noises, which can impact the quality of voice samples. 

Therefore, modern voice authentication systems employ noise-cancellation techniques and other algorithms to filter out extraneous sounds and improve the accuracy of voiceprint matching.

Preventing Deepfakes

One question you might have at this point is what if someone records your voice and uses that to gain access to sensitive data? In this age of disinformation, that’s a very real possibility. 

In fact, there have already been breaches using deepfake audio, making voice fraud an extremely common tool in various types of fraud this year. 

However, advanced voice biometrics systems like Pindrop employ an array of technologies to protect against deepfake fraud. This involves analyzing each voiceprint and detecting subtle anomalies that indicate that the voice is real during the comparison process.

As we move past legacy authentication systems, more companies are looking to shore up their defenses and move towards cloud-based solutions to improve authentication. 

Why Is Voice Authentication Better than Passwords?

We have so many passwords to keep track of that it often becomes difficult to manage. Plus, losing a password is much easier than you’d think. You’d be surprised to know how many people still keep their passwords stored in a notepad! 

That’s not an issue with voice authentication. With the ubiquity of voice-activated devices, from smartphones to smart speakers, users have become accustomed to interacting with technology using their voice.

By leveraging voice authentication, businesses can provide a more intuitive and frictionless access experience, reducing the need for multiple steps or cumbersome inputs.

Here are just a few reasons why voice authentication is becoming the next big thing in the world of multi-factor authentication

Reduced Phishing Risk

Traditional passwords are vulnerable to various attacks, especially phishing and keylogging. Phishers trick users into entering their credentials on fake websites, while keyloggers record keystrokes to capture passwords. 

Since voice authentication doesn’t rely on typing or entering data into potentially compromised fields, the risks associated with these types of attacks are significantly mitigated.

Difficult to Duplicate

As discussed before, we all have a unique voiceprint. From our accent to our speech patterns, there are always minor variations that can be detected and analyzed. 

These make it challenging for attackers to duplicate or mimic someone’s voice accurately. Although there’s a rising concern about deepfakes and advanced voice synthesis, modern voice authentication systems incorporate liveness detection to counteract such attempts.

No More Common Passwords

Most people tend to use the same password for multiple accounts. It’s easier to remember, after all! Users often struggle with password fatigue, leading to the use of easily guessable passwords or the repetition of passwords across multiple platforms. 

With voice authentication, these issues are sidestepped entirely, as there’s no password to remember or repeat.

Cost Savings

From an organizational standpoint, voice biometrics and authentication offer some fantastic benefits, primarily related to cost savings and operational efficiency gains. 

Whether it’s the IT department resetting forgotten passwords or the security team dealing with breaches due to compromised credentials, the costs add up. 

By adopting voice authentication, organizations can reduce these expenses, streamline their IT operations, and enhance overall security.

Faster, Seamless Authentication

Contact centers are really concerned about KPIs like average call handling times and resolution times. Nobody wants to wait several minutes just to prove their identity before they can get to the reason why they actually called. 

With voice biometrics, authentication happens almost instantaneously. This rapidity not only enhances user satisfaction but also improves workflow efficiency, especially in scenarios where quick access is imperative.

It also means that a user doesn’t have to key in anything, especially if they are in a situation where they are multitasking or occupied in other things, like driving. 

For contact centers, this means faster resolution times and an uptick in overall productivity, making it a win-win for both sides. 

Improve Contact Center Performance with Pindrop

Pindrop’s top-of-the-line voice biometrics solution makes it easy for contact centers to prevent fraud, improve productivity, and get better CX scores. Used by some of the country’s leading banks and financial institutions, Pindrop’s Deep Voice™ biometrics engine can identify any threats related to voice alteration, ensuring each conversation is secure and risk-proof.