Voice recognition – is it secure?

With the introduction of the Internet of Things (IoT), the connectivity of our devices via the internet has greatly increased.

This increase in connectivity has given rise to virtual assistants and voice recognition technologies – such as Siri, Google Home and Alexa – enabling voice-activated searches.

These innovations in technology have revolutionised the way in which we interact with both our devices and the internet.

But how secure are these voice recognition systems?

Voice recognition technology and the banking sector

Many well-known commercial banks such as Barclays[i], HSBC[ii] and Santander[iii] have introduced voice recognition technology to authorise account holders wanting to access their bank accounts.

Worryingly though, when tested by BBC reporter, Dan Simmons, and his non-identical twin, Joe Simmons, HSBC’s voice recognition system enabled Joe to pass through security and gain unauthorised access to his brother’s account[iv].

In a statement acknowledging the error, a spokesperson for HSBC explained, “Twins do have a similar voice print but the introduction of this technology has seen a significant reduction in fraud and has proven to be more secure than PINS, passwords and memorable phrases.”

Despite this error, it is almost impossible to mimic someone’s voice pattern – particularly to the extent of meeting hundreds of unique identifiers such as accent, tone and breathing.

The risk of cloned voice samples

Security issues are more likely to occur with voice recognition technology where cloned voice samples are used. Samples may be taken from YouTube videos for example.

However, attacks of this kind are much more sophisticated and likely to be carried out in order to send phishing emails or download malware to your device.

The future

Despite its breaches, voice recognition technology is still a very important method of human-computer interaction.

As long as organisations implementing the technology are aware of vulnerabilities and act to mitigate these, the security and sophistication of these systems will only increase over time.

Due to its myriad advantages, voice recognition technology will continue to evolve, improve and revolutionise communication.

If you’re concerned about how voice recognition technology is protecting your data and security, get in touch – we’re committed to helping you embrace new systems and technologies safely and securely.


[ii] https://ciiom.hsbc.com/ways-to-bank/phone-banking/voice-id/

[iii] https://www.pymnts.com/news/banking/2017/santander-app-enables-voice-banking/

[iv] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39965545

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