A move by Barclays to introduce voice recognition software as a way of verifying customers using telephone banking has been described as "catastrophic" by a security expert.

Barclays voice recognition security catastrophic
A woman uses a cash point at a Barclays Bank in Leicester, central England April 24, 2013. (Credit: Reuters)

Barclays has recently introduced voice recognition security to customers who hold Wealth accounts within the bank's private division. The technology has been developed by Nuance, widely known as the creators of the Siri voice companion used in Apple's iPhones.

Rather than answer questions such as mother's maiden name when trying to log on for internet banking, Wealth customers need to speak for 30 seconds before the software matches their voice to a voiceprint held on file by Barclays. If the voiceprint does not match, account holders can use conventional ways such as PIN entry and security questions to access their accounts.

However, Andy Kemshall, technical director at SecurEnvoy, said the technology used to verify a user's voice was "decades away" from being accurate enough to protect bank accounts and that the old method of using a phone's keypad to dial a PIN was more secure.

"Using voice recognition software in an industry as sensitive as banking is a very risky business. Simply using your mobile phone as an authentication method is not only 99.9% reliable, it is also more secure and less prone to faults or replication from unwanted users trying to access a customer's details.

"Barclays' decision to trial this software on a proportion of its wealthiest customers may well be a catastrophic move. Voice recognition is not new but is still in its infancy and the level that it needs to reach in order to hit the degree of reliability required is at least a decade away.

"We have not even reached the stage where computers can recognise what we're saying - let alone who is saying it."

According to the Telegraph, 93% of Wealth customers approved of the voice recognition for its speed and security. Ninety-five percent were able to access their accounts on first use of the system.

Kemshall, however, remained unconvinced.

"This type of technology will only work if it is 99.9% reliable and voice recognition is far from that," he said.

"Typing a few digits into your handset as opposed to relying on undeveloped software is far easier and far more reliable.

"Using voice recognition, in its present format is a clear case of running before you can walk."

IBTimes UK contacted Barclays repeatedly for comment but did not receive a response.