Jordanian eyes have it in fight against hackers
AMMAN—A Jordanian firm specializing in cyber-security has developed “Iris”—security technology that uses the iris of the computer owner’s eye in the manner of a fingerprint in order to prevent identity theft.
The new technology comes amid an increase of reported hacker attacks throughout the kingdom.
Jordan prides itself of being a center for excellence in matters related to the cyber world, including software development. Recently, the Internet giant Yahoo bought a local email provider and made the kingdom its center of Middle Eastern operations.
But the reputation of being a center for top talent in the cyber world came with a price: soaring Internet crimes. Last year alone police recorded 700 Internet crimes, mostly targeting financial institutions.
Police figures show that Internet-based crimes have been increasing at an annual rate of 5percent. A total of 180 cyber crimes were reported during the first three months of 2013, most of which involved hacking into bank accounts, ATM card theft, extortion, identify theft and taking over personal social media accounts.
“We are witnessing an increase of Internet attacks on individuals,” a senior police criminal investigator told The Media Line. “The police have intensified their efforts to combat this phenomenon,” a senior police investigator told The Media Line.
“Leading businessmen are being affected. Private images that could harm their family are targeted by hackers for the purpose of extortion,” the police official said.
Culprits are mostly hackers from abroad. “Our records show 70percent of Internet crimes are carried out by non-Jordanians. This includes foreigners living in the kingdom or hackers from overseas,” the police official told The Media Line.
Local banks refuse to reveal the scale of Internet-related losses to protect their interests, but a source in Jordan’s central bank said banks are increasingly concerned over the rising attacks.
Officials from the Arab Bank, the kingdom’s leading financial institution, said they had to implement stringent measures concerning Internet-based transactions such as requiring direct phone calls from clients in order to check personal information before it allows transactions to proceed.
Computer experts said the hacking is often done through emails sent to individuals urging them to log into their bank account through a link provided by the thieves. “When the individual enters his username and password, the information is registered by the hacker who would later enter the victim’s account details and transfer funds to an overseas account,” Ebrahim Qadiri, a private consultant specializing in computer forensics, told The Media Line.
Enter Iris, the technology being introduced by a growing number of banks in the battle against identity theft. The technology relies on the fact that each iris, the colored part of the eye, is unique, like a fingerprint.
A camera connected to the Iris system takes a digital photo of the customer’s iris and algorithmically converts it into a template to be compared against others in a data base at banks or by any other end users to see if they match.
The technology also allows bank clients to look into a special camera from home that does away with the need to enter passwords or user names, Iris technology owner Imad Malhas explained. “The Iris print prevents your neighbor or any other hacker from robbing you,” he said. Malhas said the Cairo Amman Bank has also successfully introduced Iris to its cash machines across the kingdom.
Banks aren’t the only ones benefiting from the patented Iris technology. Jordanian border guards, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq and other countries are using Iris, which has also helped the United Nations to register Syrian refugees.
Despite inventions like Iris cutting into the hackers’ earnings and information, experts say authorities should also impose tougher penalties. The Cyber Crimes Law of 2001 makes Internet crimes punishable by only three months to one year in jail.
Jordanian Internet law expert Fadi Alkawalee said, “We need to have laws that fit the nature of the crime. If someone hacks my account and robs millions, they will face a minimum jail sentence. The current law does not do the country a favor; it should be stricter on certain crimes,” he told The Media Line.
Alkawalee also believes that attacks originating overseas also need to be dealt with legally, through cooperation with the Interpol or special international units to combat Internet attacks.
“We are being attacked from Africa, Europe and even the United States, but the problem is that Jordanian authorities are unable to chase culprits or investigate further without help from other countries,” he lamented.