Bank and cyber frauds in India are on the rise. According to data by the Reserve Bank of India, frauds have cost the country an estimated ₹100 crore a day over the last seven years. The frauds reported in 2021-22 were 23.69% higher than in the previous year (9,103 cases reported compared to 7,359 in 2020-21), although there was a decline in the amount involved. The main reasons for the rise in fraud include greater use of digital payments, telephone banking, and online banking services. Growing fraud also means rising losses for financial institutions and increasing cases for law enforcement to solve.
An emerging technology
One way to reduce losses is by adopting Voice Technology (VT), which encompasses voice biometrics or voice/speech recognition technology. The global adoption of smartphones has led to a dramatic increase in biometrics for security. However, these methods are cumbersome, not entirely secure, and vulnerable to deep fakes. With banks and establishments looking for ways to reduce fraud and identity theft risks, one of the best ways to do this is through the use of voice biometrics.
An emerging technology, it uses the unique characteristics of a person’s voice as identification. The technology creates a digital voiceprint and compares it to a caller’s voice. Voice authentication can significantly improve security over knowledge-based authentication methods, which fraudsters have exploited to scam people. Compared to other biometrics, voice use is the cheapest technology, and does not require a reader or special device. It is also non-invasive, portable and affords remote identification. Although banks have traditionally relied on the use of passwords, passwords are the weakest link in security (81% of hacking-related breaches involve weak passwords). Unlike a password, a customer’s voice is impossible to spoof or copy, and is far more challenging to hack. VT verifies a caller swiftly in seconds by analysing the caller’s voice and flags suspicious calls. VT allows privacy because it does not require users to reveal personal information.
Voice biometrics can help financial institutions to ensure higher levels of protection for customers and employees. In February 2019, HSBC became the first bank to take the revolutionary leap in introducing voice recognition for mobile banking customers — telephone banking fraud cases fell by over 50%. The voice biometrics industry is growing exponentially now. Experts expect the market to reach a market size of $3.9 billion by 2026, with a compound annual growth rate of 22.8%.
VT is an essential tool for forensics and law enforcement. By adopting VT, police in India can stand to gain tremendously, especially with the recent introduction of 5G. The police can leverage voice to improve investigation efficiency, identify criminals, track criminals, and better respond to and prevent crimes.
Not surprisingly, voice is finding use from criminal background checks to airport security. Face recognition technology has a high error rate and works best when the person is looking directly at the camera. Voice has a much lower error rate, and requires no eye contact. Besides, in the context of fraud, the Government needs to develop a mechanism for proper coordination between financial institutions and the police to investigate and prosecute fraudsters, as a fraud deterrent, and to maintain an extensive database of such criminals. VT has the advantage of improving user experience, reducing call handle times and call centre costs, besides ensuring high-accuracy authentication in seconds. It also has the ability to resist playback attacks. The technology is sensitive enough to detect if someone is impersonating the user or playing a recording. It can identify even if the user has a cold or a sore throat. On the downside, the technology may not be 100% foolproof, may give false positives, and has an accuracy between 90% and 99%. But some recent systems which come with voice analytics of gender and age identification, claim 100% verification accuracy.
Voice could be an excellent tool for the Government to disburse money for various schemes and verify the proof of life of pensioners from their homes.
Voice biometrics tech is making waves in the world of fraud protection by providing an extra layer of protection for data. Although the technology is not yet perfect, the potential benefits are significant. Once it is in place, user establishments can reap the benefits from a substantial reduction in fraud, making the technology an essential feature in the security toolkit of the future.
K. Jayanth Murali is Director General of Police, Idol Wing CID, Tamil Nadu. The views expressed are personal. Visit: www.jayanthmurali.com