Identity Innovators: Tracy Kitten, Director, Fraud & Security at Javelin

Tracy Kitten is a recognized fraud and cybersecurity subject matter expert within the financial services community. She’s researched and written about fraud, payments, financial technology and cybersecurity for the last 16 years. As the Director of Fraud and Security at Javelin Strategy & Research, Tracy is very familiar with how fraud attacks and cyberthreats have evolved, having spoken with numerous industry experts, practitioners and even hackers to anticipate what’s coming next.

Javelin Strategy & Research provides strategic insights for financial institutions, government, payments companies, merchants, fintechs and technology providers. Javelin’s research expertise includes fraud and security, where their in-depth primary research helps guide organizations on innovation and safeguarding customers in today’s digital world.

Mike Sasaki, leader of the Mitek Systems global customer success team, chatted with Tracy to get her perspective on the shift in consumer trends towards biometric identity verification and authentication solutions, and how financial institutions are being impacted.

Mike: How have you seen voice biometrics change since its inception?

Tracy: I really think that voice biometrics make perfect sense for continuous authentication as part of the layered authentication approach. As we move forward, it’ll be more common to see several types of biometrics being used.

For the first time, we saw consumers’ perceived effectiveness of voice biometrics hit the 50% mark. This is very important. That means half of the 5,000 consumers who responded to our survey said they deem voice biometrics to be among the most effective and secure when it comes to authentication.

Voice biometrics has definitely evolved from a technology standpoint. You wouldn't think the average consumer would know that, but they seem to and have more faith in the effectiveness of voice biometrics authenticating them than they did even a year ago.

Some things have changed with voice biometrics. It's not just calling in and having a recording of a voice on file of a consumer. It's much more than that. It's the inflection of the voice, hand gestures, and even breath patterns, that affect the inflection of the voice. All of this is part of voice recognition, and it's very effective. If there is a behavioral pattern that differs from the consumer's normal voice pattern, like if a criminal calls in and is pretending to be someone else but is nervous, that can be detected as well. It’s able to pick up on that, just like a lie detector test would.

How are you seeing consumers shift their preferences in authentication solutions?

I think one of the primary things we've seen is consumers' acceptance of biometrics. They're much more willing to share information about their physical being, as well as have their behaviors tracked. I think a lot of this is due to the transition we’ve seen to digital channels as a result of the pandemic. Some reports have said that the transition to digital channels accelerated by five to 10 years. The overall perceived effectiveness of facial recognition and iris scanning was above 60%. And for the first time we saw consumers' perceived effectiveness of voice biometrics hit the 50% mark.

Consumers are showing increased interest in the use of biometrics for authentication. They understand that biometrics authentication is more secure than traditional passwords, even one-time pass codes. Consumers across the board realize that biometrics are more secure, but their perception of the effectiveness of certain biometrics did change from 2019 to 2020. Javelin believes that's a direct result of the pandemic.

Consumers are much more accustomed to biometrics. In fact, we already see that we're at the tipping point. They expect biometrics to be used. This includes everything from palm scanning to fingerprint scanning to voice recognition being tracked. Even their behavior like keystrokes, the devices they use, and the times of day they call in. All of these things work in tandem and are used collectively to authenticate them. They expect it, and will lean toward institutions that use the stronger biometrics authentication in a layered approach.

It's the best time for financial institutions to take advantage of the fact that consumers trust biometrics. If institutions clearly explain how they're using the tracked biometrics and behaviors to strengthen authentication, I think it's a win-win.

What are your thoughts on providing a layered identity verification approach in the ongoing life cycle of customers?

A layered identity verification approach in the ongoing life cycle of a customer makes perfect sense, and consumers expect this. In 2021, we see continuous authentication, or layered authentication, taking on new relevance. That's because institutions and consumers understand identities have to be verified at multiple stages in a transaction or a new account opening. That means employing all types of different authentication methods along the way, such as verifying geolocation, authenticating the device that's used to log in, or the voice that's used to call in, and tracking keystrokes.

All of these things have to be verified at several places during the transaction, and consumers will become more accustomed to this over time. In fact, they'll expect it. Consumers want ease of use, but they also understand that they need to have some friction. We refer to this as optimal friction. This is where financial institutions should focus their time on creating better customer experiences.

Transitioning away from one-time pass codes, and traditional logins and passwords, means introducing multiple layers of authentication that rely on advanced biometrics technologies such as voice recognition and facial scanning. As we move on in time, this will actually become more frictionless for the consumer because it's less information they have to remember.

Consumers are much more accepting of doing anything they can to strengthen authentication. They understand that stronger authentication reduces fraud, and don't mind going through additional steps, i.e. friction, to ensure that their account access is secure. Consumers have gotten accustomed to living in this digital environment where they have to provide biometric information. They have to provide information about who they are, but if they know it’s going to strengthen security and help authenticate them, they're more than happy to share that information. That's what we have found from our survey.