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Is Speaker Verification set to become the most reliable form of personal identification? - White Paper from VeCommerce

NEWS RELEASE 17 March 2005

Is Speaker Verification set to become the most reliable form of personal identification?
White paper from VeCommerce highlights advantages of Speech Verification over fingerprints, palmprints, iris and face recognition – significant increases in reliability and security.

VeCommerce, a company with over 20 years experience in the provision of natural language solutions, have produced a White Paper “Can you prove who you are?” which highlights the success of Speaker Verification as a secure and reliable means of personal identification and the advantages it has over other methods such as finger and palm prints, iris and face recognition as well as PINs and passwords.

Ro Iyengar, Managing Director of VeCommerce in the UK, said: “Identity fraud is one of the fastest growing ‘types’ of crime in the world. With many countries concerned about their national security and businesses of all sizes anxious to safeguard their own security as well as that of their customers, being certain that a person is ‘who they say they are’ is of increasing significance.”
“Independent research carried out at Edinburgh University and GCHQ demonstrated that speech verification outperformed other systems in overall reliability,” continued Ro Iyengar. “Calling on our many years of experience in developing and implementing speech recognition solutions for businesses and government departments around the world, we believe that Speech Verification will play a significant role in personal identification solutions for many organisations.”

VeCommerce have developed VeSecure™ to integrate the latest developments in both Speech Recognition and Speech Verification and the White Paper highlights the role that the company believes Speech Verification will play in personal identification – increased reliability, increased security and the ability to carrying out identification over the telephone.

“The technology is now so sophisticated that different accents and dialects can be successfully identified, and it is extremely hard to mimic or copy someone else’s voice pattern,” added Ro Iyengar. “We believe that speech verification is proving its value for organisations in many parts of the world. Proving someone’s identity has never been more important to individuals, businesses and governments.”
A copy of the White Paper follows this press release.

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Contact:
Sue Viney
Viney Communications
0118 934 2093
07774 267280
sue@vineycommunications.co.uk

Notes to Editors
1. Photos of Ro Iyengar available as high res jpeg files. Please contact Sue Viney on 0118 934 2093 or sue@vineycommunications.co.uk for a copy

2. VeCommerce is an Australian based company with over 20 years experience in the provision of natural language speech recognition and voice enabled e-commerce solutions. The business solution enables consumers simply to say what they want to an organisation’s computer systems using any telephone. This results in complicated but ‘routine’ transactions being completed automatically, significantly reducing the cost of each transaction whilst enhancing customer satisfaction through an easy to use, friendly and consistent service. Clients include SunCorp, Pizza Hut and the Australian Tax Office in Australia, Ministry of Social Development in New Zealand, Magna Entertainment Corporation in the USA and Littlewoods Bet Direct in the UK. VeCommerce set up a UK office in Maidenhead, Berkshire in 2002.








White paper on Speaker Verification from VeCommerce


Can you prove who you are?


Being certain that a person is ‘who they say they are’ has become of increased significance over the last few years. With a considerably raised threat from global terrorism and an increasingly mobile world population, the ability to correctly identify a person is high on the agenda for the security of many companies and countries.

Identity fraud, where someone uses your name, address, bank/credit card account number or other identifying information without your knowledge, to commit fraud or other crimes, is one of the fastest growing ‘types’ of crime in the world. It has topped the US Government’s fastest growing crime list for the third year in a row and a growing number of reports suggest that the rate of identity fraud is even higher and is a greater concern outside the US.

Last year in Australia, a 73 year old woman was jailed for social security fraud going back 30 years. Using three different identities she falsely claimed A$380,000 in unemployment benefit and age and widow pensions.

Head of the UK NAO, Sir John Bourn, reported that, according to the Department’s own estimate, the ammount lost from payments in all benefits in 2003-4 because of fraud and error was approximately £3 billion. This is the same estimate as reported in 2002-03 and 2001-02 and represents some 2.8% of the £109 billion of gross expenditure by the Department on a wide range of benefits, employment programmes and associated administration costs.

Proof of identity?

Authenticating identity has always been problematic and subjective. Current methods rely on examining documents such as driving licences, passports and birth certificates. In most case, these documents were simply not designed for the job. Many are easily available and with the advent of low cost high quality reproduction technologies, creating forgeries is easier than ever. Google brings cup over 330,000 results when searching on how to buy fake ID; over 20,000 of those come from UK web sites!

Even today, to apply for a passport the applicant only has to provide proof of formal identity from a witness who must be:
- aged 16 years or over
- the holder of a current passport
- have know the applicant for more than twelve months
- have a daytime contact phone number
- willing to provide personal details such as date of birth and home address

Such ‘stringent’ criteria are hardly likely to deter criminal activity!

How do we know who someone is?

With the rising trend towards call centres and internet based customer service, establishing identity remotely is even more problematic, relying on customers to remember and keep secret passwords and PINs.

Passwords and PINs are notoriously weak forms of security. When a password or PIN is lost or forgotten, the customer needs to re-establish his/her identity, usually by calling the call centre and answering a sequence of personal questions. Not only is this costly and time consuming, this process doesn’t necessarily establish the authenticity of the caller. In addition, the call centre agent is also privy to identity information, providing yet another opportunity for fraudulent activity.

VeCommerce has developed VeSecure™ to integrate the latest developments in both Speech Recognition and Speech Verification technologies to enable organisations to confirm a claimed identity.

Dial an identity

Speaker verification is one of a range of biometric technologies that is starting to gain widespread appeal. Others include finger and palm print, iris and face recognition. While all these technologies have their place, the big benefit of speech verification is that it works over the world’s most ubiquitous communications device – the telephone.

Speaker verification is a technology that relies on the unique characteristics of a person’s voice to create a distinct ‘voice identifier’ that can be captured over the telephone, verified reliably and appended permanently to an individual consumer’s personal ID credentials.

Using the telephone network, speaker verification can be used to authenticate identity from anywhere in the world. The infrastructure to rollout speech verification is already in place - there is no need to invest in special sensors, data processing technology or networks. In fact, delivering speech verification solutions can be both extremely cost effective and fast to deploy.

As the authentication server can be centrally housed in a secure facility, with no connection to unsecured desktops, laptops and networks, speaker verification provides an extremely secure means of identity management and authentication.

Simple yet secure

Authentication of a person’s identity using the unique characteristics of their voice, results in a verification process that is easy to use, fast, secure and much more convenient than passwords and PINs. Of all the verification technologies, speaker verification is the only one that can be instantly deployed to an entire customer base as the infrastructure is already in place.

Before an authorised caller can use the system, they must go through an enrolment process, where their voice is captured and digitised for the first time. The VeSecure system can then authenticate their identity during live operation.

This crucial, yet simple enrolment procedure involves each user speaking to the system for a short while until it forms a reliable ‘voiceprint’ of the user’s voice. The system then encodes the voiceprint and stores it as an encrypted, mathematical algorithm that cannot be compromised, hacked or cracked. For additional security, the verification server can itself be located within a highly secure facility with no connection to unsecured computers or other access devices or equipment.

Subsequent calls are then compared to the stored voiceprint to verify the caller’s claimed identity. The voice is also checked against a model of other speaker’s voices to ascertain if the caller’s voice is significantly different from those of other people. Based on these comparisons, the caller is accepted or rejected.

Performance and user preference

When speech verification technology was first introduced, there were numerous questions from users regarding the performance of the technology. What happens if I have a cold? What happens if I have an accent? Can mimics break into my account? What happens if somebody records my voice? Can my password be decoded? But the technology has moved on significantly since the first applications and these concerns have been addressed directly.

Studies commissioned by the Communications Electronics Security Group (the information security division of the British Government Communications Headquarters) demonstrated that speech verification outperformed fingerprint, hand print and face recognition systems in overall reliability during testing. Testing by Edinburgh University’s Centre of Communications Interface Research demonstrated that speech verification gave 99.9% security (roughly 100 times better than just PINs and passwords on their own), with 97% of callers successfully completing transactions without operator assistance.

Having a distinctive accent actually improves security as this makes the voice more distinct from others. Extensive testing has also shown that mimics are unable to fool the technology as they only sound similar and not identical to the original party. Colds and flu create relatively few problems for the technology and unless highly sophisticated equipment is used, recordings don’t fool the system.

It is important to note that relying on one single layer of security, of any type, is generally regarded as unreliable. However, depending on the level of security required, VeSecure systems can ask random questions for which recorded samples could not be available and use ‘Speech Recognition’ to actually ‘understand’ the answers given. Similarly, encrypting voice templates also means that not even system administrators are able to decode customers’ spoken passwords.

Strengthening security

Speech verification also has a role in enhanced security functionality to new or existing voice or IT networks. In many large organisations, for example, an employee needing a new password is often required to telephone their IT help desk. The help desk operator confirms the callers’ identity by asking them a number of ‘personal information’ questions. If the caller answers correctly, they are issued with a new password.

Disclosing personal or ‘identifying’ information to a help desk operator for the purpose of re-issuing a password is extremely insecure, yet many of us do this without questioning it. The help desk operator then knows your personal identity information. This not only has issues relating to privacy obligations, but also has significant security implications, as there is then an opportunity for this personal information to be used in unauthorised circumstances. Unfortunately, criminal activity resulting from this scenario has already occurred around the world.

A speech verification system will identify and verify the caller by prompting for their personal information and then use speech recognition to ensure that the stated information matches the information on file. In addition it will confirm the caller’s voice characteristics against the registered voiceprint. This means that in the event that an imposter might obtain an unauthorised password and possibly also the person’s identity information, the system will reject their request as the ‘voiceprint’ credential will not match.

Market acceptance

While the deployment of speech verification has lagged behind that of speech recognition, the advantages of speech verification are now being more widely recognised. In many ways, the technology has benefited from much of the work being done in the area of speech recognition, where that technology is now starting to find wide ranging acceptance in many industries and government departments across the world.

Allowing organisations to reliably improve the process of individual identification, without the need to incur additional labour costs, can only be a good thing. Speech verification can not only protect an organisation from fraud, but also, perhaps more importantly, can protect an individual from losing their good name and credit record. Victims around the world have lost job opportunities, been refused loans, education, housing or cars or even been arrested for crimes they didn’t commit.

Speech verification is proving its value for organisations in many parts of the world. The technology has changed and improved significantly over the last few years and has demonstrated that it can increase security and protection for individuals without increasing costs to an organisation. It is also starting to have a significant role in the security of organisations ranging from businesses through to assisting with national security.

With heightened security in many aspects of our lives, perhaps speech verification can help you prove that someone really is who they say they are?



Ro Iyengar, Managing Director of VeCommerce UK 17 March 2005





Contact: Sue Viney
Viney Communications
0118 934 2093
07774 267280
sue@vineycommunications.co.uk