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Can cyber criminals “compromise speech recognition systems with ease”? - Nuance - Blog

Can cyber criminals “compromise speech recognition systems with ease”?

A recent Finnish university study on voice biometrics has been making headlines – and most of those news stories have been inaccurately summarizing the results with concerns as in our title above, leading many to believe that cyber crooks can compromise even the best speech recognition systems.

Before commenting on the article and the study, I feel it is important to highlight that Nuance’s voice biometrics solutions have secured over five billion transactions to date, and not once has an impersonation attack been reported. We have conducted several voice impersonation attacks with famous voice impersonators in the US and the UK, and none proved successful.

So why are the news stories missing the mark? The real story? Let’s start with the conclusion.

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 “The results indicate a slight increase in the equal error rate (EER). Speaker-by-speaker analysis suggests that the impersonations scores increase towards some of the target speakers, but that effect is not consistent.

So how could the researchers write that “Voice impersonators can fool speaker recognition systems”? To understand that, you need to dig deeper into the study. Here are the actual data points:

So what does this data mean? Let’s start with some definitions.

Text Independent- This is passive voice biometrics where a voiceprint is created from listening in on a normal conversation and that voiceprint is compared to a voiceprint on file.

Same Text- This is active voice biometrics where the user is given a specific phrase to repeat. (Often it is “My voice is my password”.) Once enrolled the user is asked to speak the phrase and then this new voiceprint is compared to the voiceprint on file.

False Accept Rate- This is the percentage of times a system incorrectly matches to another individual’s existing biometric. Example: fraudster calls claiming to be a customer and is authenticated.

False Reject Rate- This is the percentage of times the system does not match the individual to his/her own existing biometric template. Example: customer claiming to be themselves is rejected.

Equal Error Rate or EER- The EER is the location on the graph curve where the false accept rate and false reject rate are equal. In general, the lower the equal error rate value, the higher the accuracy of the biometric system. Note, however, that most operational systems are not set to operate at the “equal error rate”, so the measure’s true usefulness is limited to comparing biometric system performance.

GMM-UBM; i-vector Cosine; & i-vector PLDA- These are three different algorithmic approaches to voice biometrics.  Notice that the latest technology, Deep Neural Networks, is not tested.

Now that we have that, the data showcases the following:

  1. In one instance (text-independent GMM-UBM) the EER is decreased with impersonation – meaning that the imposters were less successful at generating a false accept than a random individual not attempting any voice mimicry.
  2. In another instance (same text i-vector PLDA) the EER is virtually identical between the impersonation testing and random attacks. In other words, imposters have the same performance via mimicry as a random individual not attempting to modify their voice.
  3. In four instances, there is an increase to the EER rate, but given the small sample size (60 voices) the results are not statistically relevant. In other words, a test performed with a larger sample may showcase opposite results.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, the researchers did not perform the tests with Nuance voice biometric technology. This is evident by the very high EER rates reported by the study as a “baseline” result, ranging from 4.26% EER to 10.83% EER. No tests were conducted on deep-neural-network based voice biometric algorithms, the technology used by Nuance and deployed through scores of enterprises worldwide.

In conclusion, although this topic does merit additional research, Nuance will continue its focus on improving our ability to address actual fraud attack vectors, including brute force attacks, voice imposters, and recording attacks while continuously improving the voiceprint and also improving mitigating strategies for future attack vectors that we believe will eventually be used by fraudsters such as synthetic speech attacks.

Contact us if you would like to learn more about the great strides Nuance has made in Voice Biometrics.


Publish Date: January 9, 2018 5:00 AM

2021 Buyers Guide Headsets

All Ears Ltd

Freemate headsets, and sanitary solutions for headsets
Freemate headsets available, corded and wireless for telephony and USB. 3 year warranty compatible with all model phones. We supply accessories from downleads, USB leads, ear cushions, leatherettes and we service call centre headsets, these are sanitised and repaired or serviced as required.

We supply the corporate environment, Government departments, security, medical and professional offices and meet the needs of many of New Zealand's SOHO market.

We can even develop and create one-off solutions for those with mobility or disability limitations opening up a world of freedom in communications. And we like to have fun on the journey.

Comfort Telecommunications

Smith Corona Headsets
3 year warranty compatible with all model phones. Accessories also available. Cords, earpads, etc all factory direct pricing




Since 1998 Headsets123 has been supplying Call Center Grade corded phone headsets, wireless headsets, headset telephones and a wide range of headset accessories to accommodate Medical, Insurance, Financial offices and large Call Centers environments offering you value, comfort, flexibility and increased productivity in your day to day business.

Our offices are located just outside of Seattle, WA. We hope you enjoy our wide range of headsets and accessories.


Jabra is a leader in engineering communications and sound solutions – innovating to empower both consumers and businesses. We are committed to letting people hear more, do more, and be more than they ever thought possible. Through sound and video, we help transform lives. Jabra engineering excellence leads the way, building on 150 years of pioneering work. This allows us to create integrated headsets and communications tools that help professionals work more productively; wireless headphones and earbuds that let consumers better enjoy calls, music, and media; and pioneering video conferencing solutions, enabling seamless collaboration between distributed teams. Jabra employs approx. 1,400 people worldwide

JPL Telecom

Based in Dorset, England, JPL designs and manufactures innovative professional telecom headsets. We have a wide range of professional telecom and call centre use headsets in wired, wireless DECT and Bluetooth styles.

Making sure that your customer’s voice can be heard is vital. JPL Telecom ensures that your customer’s experience is first-class. All headsets have our Surround Shield™ noise cancellation to make certain your customer only hears what you want them to hear. Comfortable and attractively designed headsets are built to withstand the constant use in any call centre environment.

Our aim is to continuously improve customer choice, offering a fair price and value to our resellers and end users.

Unicom Services Ltd.

Contact center headsets and conference solutions
Unicom Services Ltd. is a distributor of professional headsets and communication solutions for all possible applications.

Products and Services:
* Headsets for contact center, office, small office and home, mobile phones, computer headsets and adapters.

* Conference systems - audio video terminals, personal and group multipoint conferences.

* Telecom Products - office wired and wireless phones, dect systems, softphones.

* Video conference software for contact centers and offices.

* Unified Communication Solution.

Xiamen Mairdi Electronic Technology Co., Ltd

Call Center Headsets
Mairdi is a professional call center headsets maker in China. We've designed, produced and exported professional communication headsets for 16 years. Our headsets were exported to over 120 countires in the world.
Our headsets are widely compatible with nearly all IP Phones, desk phones, PC and mobiles. They are all noise cancelling and with built-in hearing protection technology. Our headset accessories are Plantronics or Jabra compatible. All the headsets and accessories are CE,FCC, RoHS certificated.

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