Preventing fraud during the peak of consumer digital adoption

By Brett Beranek, Vice-President & General Manager, Security & Biometrics Line of Business at Nuance Communications.

When the pandemic struck last year, the business landscape changed forever. As offices closed their doors and the majority of interactions shifted online, organisations in every sector were forced to reimagine the way that they interacted with their customers and delivered their services. Consumer and business digital adoption leapt forward five years in a matter of around eight weeks, according to McKinsey.

The unprecedented growth in digital adoption brought with it a surge in cyber-attacks, leaving businesses and consumers alike more vulnerable than ever. In fact, it was recently reported that online fraud grew by a third in the UK during the pandemic.

As restrictions ease and some aspects of life begin to return to normal, not everything is set to go back to the way it was pre-pandemic. Many consumers are unsurprisingly hesitant about returning to the dark days of face-to-face interaction. In fact, over half (55%) of UK adults believe they will interact with brands more through digital channels than face-to-face post pandemic, according to recent research from Nuance.

It is clear to see that we’re entering a new era in the business-customer relationship. The next major concern for businesses will be effectively securing these digital channels and protecting their customers and employees from potential fraud attacks in this new online world.

A new digital landscape means new digital threats

Whether it was for work, entertainment, shopping or even just communication, individuals around the world found themselves relying on digital technologies more than ever last year. The need to socially distance in order to protect the most vulnerable and limit the spread of the virus drove a never-before-seen surge in time spent online.

This rise in digital adoption – along with the speed at which it happened - became the perfect storm for fraud. Call centres, in particular, were under immense pressure. Pre-pandemic, many had little to no experience with enabling remote working environments and fraudsters used this to their advantage - testing for vulnerabilities by directly attacking agents working from home or even pretending to be those agents to test for weaknesses in the wider business.

As consumers increasing turn towards online interactions, these challenges are only likely to persist. Moving forward, Nuance discovered that over half of UK consumers (51%) would now actually choose to use apps or visit a brand’s website, rather than going into a physical branch to complete tasks such as shopping and banking. This is unsurprising when you consider the time savings and convenience consumers have experienced over the last year. There is no longer any need to travel to a physical store and spend time queuing. Instead, every individual has the ability to access services simply by picking up a mobile phone or turning on a laptop.

Adapting to this new digital world and navigating the sheer volume of online interactions can be challenging enough for businesses. When you add into the mix separating the fraudsters from the real customers requesting to make transactions or access information it can become an uphill battle. This is where biometric technology can help.

Balancing user experience and fraud prevention

Whilst there is not and never will be one single silver bullet for fighting fraud, biometrics could provide an answer for organisations looking to keep malicious actors at bay and ensure the security of both their contact centre customers and employees in our new digital landscape.

A more powerful and effective alternative to passwords and PINs, voice biometrics, for example, cannot be compromised in the same way as knowledge-based security methods. This is because human voices are as unique as a fingerprint. By using sophisticated algorithms to analyse more than 1,000 voice characteristics, voice biometric technology uses a caller’s voice to not only validate their identity but also protect them against hackers.

Another protective layer on top of voice biometrics is behavioral biometrics. This technology measures how an individual interacts with a device - how they type, how they tap and how they swipe or even hold the phone - in order to find out whether they are who they say they are.

By automatically identifying when fraudulent calls are being made, biometric technologies will prove an invaluable tool for helping to protect customers looking to make digital transactions moving forward. They will also help to shield contact centre agents regardless of where they are based by improving internal security checks and verifying their identities. This prevents fraudsters from pretending to be them in order to gain wider access to a business’ sensitive information.

As we settle into our new digital lives, where the internet has become our workplace, our classroom, our shopping venue and our social lifeline, consumer behaviours and preferences have changed forever. Prioritising the customer experience while preventing fraudulent activities is key for businesses across all sectors. By investing in biometric technologies, organisations are not only meeting today’s fraudsters head on, they are also preparing for whatever is around the corner.


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