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Old 18th October, 2005, 07:02 PM
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Traceable Documents?

Printed anything on a laser printer lately? Had anything produced by a print service that might have come from a laser printer? If so, and the information you printed was of a, shall we say, politically unflattering nature to those in power, you could end up getting a visit from people in dark suits with no sense of humor.

According to this article at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Xerox Docucolor series laser printers add encoded tracking information in the form of hard-to-see yellow dots to every document that is printed. The date and time the document was printed, as well as the serial number of the printer, are encoded into a special dot pattern that is repeated across the page, and is very difficult to detect with the unaided eye. What's more, the EFF indicates that Xerox is not the only laser printer manufacturer to do this; it seems the U.S. Secret Service has struck deals with a number of printer manufacturers to do this same thing in other printers.

If you happen to have access to one of the Docucolor printers, you can verify the codes for yourself. The EFF has thoughtfully provided a detailed description of the encoding process and a decoder.

They are also looking for examples of output from other color printers to see if they contain embedded codes or not. According to this Nov. 22, 2004 article in PCWorld, it is quite likely that it does.

So, what do you think? Is this really all that big a deal? Do we need to be worried about the thought police breaking down our doors? Is it going to get to the point that you can't print an unpopular opinion without worrying that the equipment you use can be traced back to you? Tell us what you think!

Last edited by Áedán; 18th October, 2005 at 07:07 PM. Reason: tag fix
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Old 18th October, 2005, 08:50 PM
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As far as I was aware all printers have a unique signature (although not a design feature) becasue of the way the charactisically splashed small bits of ink on to the paper, or the way they fix toner to the paper...
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Old 18th October, 2005, 09:20 PM
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True, and the same thing is true of typewriters; however, the difference there is that you have to have something to use to narrow your search (a suspect as it were), otherwise you have to simply start examining every unit that could have conceivably generated the output you are looking at. Not to mention that such 'fingerprints' don't tell you when the document was produced.

With this traceability, all you need to do is go find the unit with the matching serial number, which is potentially orders of magnitude easier.
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Old 18th October, 2005, 09:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gizmo
True, and the same thing is true of typewriters; however, the difference there is that you have to have something to use to narrow your search (a suspect as it were), otherwise you have to simply start examining every unit that could have conceivably generated the output you are looking at. Not to mention that such 'fingerprints' don't tell you when the document was produced.

With this traceability, all you need to do is go find the unit with the matching serial number, which is potentially orders of magnitude easier.
I don't like it but it doesn't make much of a difference except to make the time to get the same information less, and make it more accurate.

In NZ our forensics can already tell you which printer you printed a document from, and from varying conditions of the paper and toner tell how long it has been printed for.


But if the secret service and others start doing seriously stupid (well more than the currently stupid) things they will get hobbled like the equivalent in NZ. They now have to get a search warrent before entering your place, infact they have about the same powers now as the ordinary police - Someone came home while they were searching the place - and they had the wrong house. 1 court case later and it all comes out.
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Old 18th October, 2005, 10:05 PM
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I was under the impression that this had been the case for some years, with expensive colour copiers at least. I used to have a copier which would do this (according to the engineer anyhow). He may have been pulling my leg of course!

I thought it was mainly for deterring the copying of money.
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Old 19th October, 2005, 01:00 AM
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Not so much information before - mainly enough to show that is was counterfit money under a black light.
Didn't give a time, also didn't give the serial number
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Old 19th October, 2005, 03:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danrok
I was under the impression that this had been the case for some years, with expensive colour copiers at least. I used to have a copier which would do this (according to the engineer anyhow). He may have been pulling my leg of course!

I thought it was mainly for deterring the copying of money.
Just about all color copiers do it. They usually use yellow to do it as well. A very faint yellow (it's hard to see a light yellow on a white background) And they usually use patterns. (markings on the page) I really don't think you'll see the words (this document was printed on a Konica 8050!!) if looked at threw a micoscope.

Just about all the color machines I've been trained on have a board built into them that handles "currency detection" Just depends on what part of the world your in wether or not you get the board for your regine.

Most machines will "let it slide" and spit out a copy of money but it will do a few things...
1) change the image some how (ie put the word "COPY" all over the backgroud)
2)log an internal counter.
3) The machine will "lock out" and NOT EVEN I can unlock it. (ie repair guy) We'll have to call the Dept of Treasurey and you can explain to them why you've been copying money. As they are the ONLY one's... (with the help of the manufacturer) that can unlock it. Enjoy club fed.

Any questions?

**edit** I read giz's post AFTER I posted mine. (guess I was right about the yellow dots eh?)

**edit2**... I learned about this about 6-7 years ago when I first got trained on color products. They were doing it back then.
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Old 19th October, 2005, 03:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noob
Not so much information before - mainly enough to show that is was counterfit money under a black light.
Didn't give a time, also didn't give the serial number
It's manditory now. On the color machines that we sell, part of the setup process is to put the time and date in. If you don't.... the machine doesn't work until you do!!
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Old 19th October, 2005, 03:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robbie
It's manditory now. On the color machines that we sell, part of the setup process is to put the time and date in. If you don't.... the machine doesn't work until you do!!
Damn, of well as long as I can't see it.

Does it still show up under black light, or has that changed to a microscope under a different light now as well
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Old 19th October, 2005, 04:14 AM
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So what else is performing this service for us? Somehow I don't fell any safer.
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Old 19th October, 2005, 06:08 AM
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This probably one of those things that fall under.... "if your not guilty don't worry about it".
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Old 19th October, 2005, 06:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noob
Damn, of well as long as I can't see it.

Does it still show up under black light, or has that changed to a microscope under a different light now as well
Not sure about the black light thing as I have never tried it. (maybe someday soon now since you've put the idea into my head and yes I'll be sure to take pix) It's Halloween... I'm sure I can find a black light around.

Might be microscopic now as the machines made today are a might higher resolution this requirs toner that is ALOT smaller, and finer. Cool trick... shake a bottle of toner around, it's sooooo fine it moves like a bottle of water.
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Old 19th October, 2005, 10:27 AM
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Makes life difficult doesnt it lol.

Not that hard to buy a "sensitive documents" printer that makes no pattern or distinctive markings, and is disposable.

In fact, Lexmark design their entire range to be less than distinctive and disposable.

How long will it take someone to hack this feature on the Xerox models, if not for a purpose, then for a principle.
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Old 19th October, 2005, 10:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robbie
3) The machine will "lock out" and NOT EVEN I can unlock it. (ie repair guy) We'll have to call the Dept of Treasurey and you can explain to them why you've been copying money. As they are the ONLY one's... (with the help of the manufacturer) that can unlock it. Enjoy club fed.
It's not that bad here. UK pound notes are far more intricate and colourful than US dollars. Also, they purposely use colours on the notes which don't scan and copy well. The colour won't come out looking quite right no matter what you do. I've tested it.
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Old 19th October, 2005, 10:55 AM
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Australian money is plastic notes, in bright colours, and more importantly, always has a transparent plastic window with a decal over it that makes it impossible to fake.

So, if you carry a $1 bill into a copy shop, you could lock up their copiers?
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Old 19th October, 2005, 02:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dsio
Makes life difficult doesnt it lol.

Not that hard to buy a "sensitive documents" printer that makes no pattern or distinctive markings, and is disposable.

In fact, Lexmark design their entire range to be less than distinctive and disposable.

How long will it take someone to hack this feature on the Xerox models, if not for a purpose, then for a principle.
You would have to pretty much change the board out that handles currency detection. Good luck, machine won't work without it. Trtust me, it's going to take A LOT to "hack it". Not really even worth it.
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Old 19th October, 2005, 09:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dsio
Australian money is plastic notes, in bright colours, and more importantly, always has a transparent plastic window with a decal over it that makes it impossible to fake.

So, if you carry a $1 bill into a copy shop, you could lock up their copiers?

That could be extremly funny
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Old 20th October, 2005, 02:59 PM
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I KNEW I should have kept those old dot-matrix printers
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