Innocent Bystander

A little tech, a little current affairs, and my view on whatever has my attention at the moment...

Current Terror Alert Level
Terror Alert Level

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Your Printer is Talking to the Feds...

This story was actually in today's Washington Post, although I found out about it because it was on the front page (but beneath the fold) of the Press Democrat out of Santa Rosa CA.

If you didn't know it The US Treasury Department recently redesigned the $10 bill again ( One of the biggest motivations for all of the recent currency redesigns over the last several years has been because of the fantastic image quality of the average color scanner and color printer. A good quality color scanner and printer could be used to create a halfway decent counterfeit bill, and it's because of this that the latest versions of the bills in your wallet incorporate things like microprinting and security strips, both of which can't be properly duplicated with a color scanner or copier.

It seems however that the Feds have incorporated another security feature that nobody knew about until recently. The thing is this security feature isn't in the bills, it's in your very own color printer...

According to the Washington Post article, PC World magazine discovered that the printouts from many color laser printers had yellow dots scattered throughout the page, that could only be seen by using a special flashlight. The article even had comments from a senior Xerox researcher who said that these dots were actually a secret code that the Feds could use to track down criminals.

However, the code isn't so secret anymore, at least the ones coming out of Xerox printers. The Electronic Frontier Fondation has cracked the Xerox code, and while it hasn't cracked them, they say they have found similar codes on printers from every major manufacturer. The Xerox code contains the serial number of the printer as well as the date and time that the document was printed.

The Secret Service has confirmed that the markings are there, but say little more than a coutermeasure to protect against counterfiting.


Post a Comment

<< Home