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V14 2011 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

The E-Sylum: Volume 14, Number 24, June 12, 2011, Article 21

WHY YOU CAN'T PRINT COUNTERFEIT MONEY (AND GET AWAY WITH IT)

We've discussed this topic before, but here's a recent PC World article on the printer-tracing technology built into most home and office printers sold today. -Editor

Could you print counterfeit money, certificates, or other official documents on a color laser or LED printer? Some current printer models are indeed capable of creating reasonable facsimiles. The authorities, however, have already taken steps to thwart such activity.

Print any nontext image on your printer, and take a very close look at it under bright light: You might just be able to make out a subtle pattern of yellow dots covering the page. Those dots are a microscopic code that allows government agencies to trace the page back to the printer that created it--making the person who pressed the Print button pretty easy to find.

How is the code printed, and what data does it contain? That's secret, of course--printer vendors remain tight-lipped about the details. In 2005, the Electronic Frontier Foundation cracked the anticounterfeiting code on a Xerox color laser printer; the documents the EFF examined were date- and time-stamped, and could be traced to the location of the printer. Digging further in 2008, the EFF used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain hundreds of pages of documents on the use of printer-tracing technology from the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. According to EFF staff technologist Seth Schoen, "the strategy of the government agencies that have worked on this technology--both U.S. and foreign governments--is mainly to keep as quiet as possible and hope that as little information as possible gets out."

As color laser printers become affordable enough for small or home offices, this tracing technology is coming closer to where we all live. "We were able to buy a low-end Dell color laser that was targeted to home users for just a few hundred dollars," Schoen notes, "and it included tracking dots. It seems like they're a part of the printers that more and more people use every day."

I don't know how "easy to find" the printer is, but when a SUSPECT is found, the dots make it easy to confirm whether their printer is the one responsible for a counterfeit note. -Editor

To read the complete article, see: Why You Can't Print Counterfeit Money on Your Color Laser (www.pcworld.com/article/229647/why_you_cant_print_counterfeit
_money_on_your_color_laser.html)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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