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Bush_Eats_Beef Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 10:44 AM
Original message
Secret code embedded in laser jet printers lets Gov't track print source
Secret code 'traces copies'

19/10/2005 12:37

http://www.news24.com/News24/Technology/News/0,,2-13-14...

San Francisco - A secret code embedded in many colour laser jet printers allows the US government and any other organisation capable of reading the cipher to identify when the copies were made and on which particular machine, according to research conducted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

The San Francisco-based privacy organisation said it had detected almost invisible patterns of yellow dots on every document printed on the affected machines that could indicate when and where the print was made. Among the copiers found to include the secret yellow dots are ones made by Brother, Canon, Dell, Epson, HP, Konica/Minolta, Kyocera, Lexmark, Ricoh, Tektronix/Toshiba and Xerox.

The foundation cautioned that though it had deciphered the code on Xerox machines, it had not done the same for the yellow dots found on other copiers, but that it was likely that they too represented a sophisticated document tracking system. "So far, we've only broken the code for Xerox DocuColour printers, but we believe that other models from other manufacturers include the same personally identifiable information in their tracking dots," said EFF Staff Technologist Seth David Schoen.

The dots are yellow, less than one millimetre in diameter, and are typically repeated over each page of a document. The pattern can be seen using a blue light, a magnifying glass, or a microscope. The group said that currently only the US Secret Service and now itself had the ability to decrypt the imprint. It said that although the Secret Service claims to use this information only for cornering counterfeit crimes, there is no legal framework to prevent the information being put to other uses.

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electron_blue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 10:48 AM
Response to Original message
1. you have got to be kidding me
The govt is capable of doing this? But somehow not capable of coming up with an accountable way to count votes?

Yeah, yeah, I know, one is a federal job, the other is a state job.

Still, if this is true, it shows you what the federal govt can get done if it wants to.
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skids Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 10:57 AM
Response to Reply #1
8. Oh, it's true.

In fact the EFF is asking people to send in sample printouts from most models so they can crack the rest of the codes.

http://www.eff.org/news/archives/2005_10.php#004063

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electropop Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 11:03 AM
Response to Reply #1
13. Federal elections should not be a state job.
This has only been set up this way to enable theft by complexity. The Federal Government has the authority to regulate state electoral systems as closely as it pleases - look at the Voting Rights Act for example. This can and must be changed.
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Mabus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 10:49 AM
Response to Original message
2. let's say they have "forged" documents
like, say, the TANG records that were given to Dan Rather and CBS, so using this information they could help in the investigation and find out what type of printer they came off of, right? Hmmm, wonder why that wasn't done.
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Bush_Eats_Beef Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 10:52 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. If they were PRINTED, maybe. If they're PHOTOCOPIES, probably not...
...I'm guessing that the "almost invisible" dots don't copy, and if they do, not in a way that would point the Gestapo to the "originating" machine.

:patriot:
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xultar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 10:54 AM
Response to Reply #2
4. Typewriter and photo copies not colour laser jet unfortunately.
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benburch Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 10:55 AM
Response to Original message
5. Also, new scanners have code in them so you cannot scan currency.
Not that this is a bad thing.
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NNN0LHI Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 11:17 AM
Response to Reply #5
16. I am pretty sure this is all about counterfeiting? n/t
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benburch Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 12:06 PM
Response to Reply #16
17. Yes. nt
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Bush_Eats_Beef Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 10:55 AM
Response to Original message
6. More, from CNET: "Cracking the Xerox tracking code"
http://news.com.com/2061-11199_3-5901781.html

October 19, 2005 7:08 AM PDT
Cracking the Xerox tracking code

The Electronic Frontier Foundation said this week that it had cracked the code used in Xerox printers to embed details about the printer, including serial number, along with time and date information.

Laser printer manufacturers include the codes--which appear as small yellow dots visible under blue light--to help the Secret Service reduce counterfeiting.

The EFF reported the existence of the watermarks this summer, and this week published source code of a Xerox decoding program.

The blogging community was, predictably, appalled, although not that surprised. Speculation launched as to what other technology the government was tracking. And bloggers almost immediately began figuring out ways to get around the tracking.

Blog community response:

"But everyone should be worried about living in a world filled with innocuous-seeming devices that enable unprecedented, pervasive, routine surveillance."
--Copyfight

"I wonder if any similar deals have been struck with the feds related to inkjet printers -- the type found in most consumers' homes?"
--TechBlog

"Now that the code is known, it should be possible to forge the marks. For example, I could cook up an array of little yellow dots that encode any date, time, and serial number I like. Then I could add the dots to any image I like, and print out the image-plus-dots on a printer that doesn't make the marks. The resulting printout would have genuine-looking marks that contain whatever information I chose."
--Freedom to Tinker

Posted by Margaret Kane
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Fla Dem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 10:56 AM
Response to Original message
7. So they may be able to ID the printer type, but so what?
How do they know I have a HP xxxx, serial # xxxxx-xx-xxxx-xxx if I never registered it with the company?
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skids Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 10:58 AM
Response to Reply #7
10. They'll know after home invasion... uh I mean serving warrant.
Edited on Wed Oct-19-05 10:59 AM by skids
(EDIT: frankly, if you have a home wireless network, there's a good chance they could park curbside and pick the serial number up off any LAN-connected printers.)

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Fla Dem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 11:11 AM
Response to Reply #10
15. Well thank God I don't have wireless.......n/t
Edited on Wed Oct-19-05 11:11 AM by Fla Dem
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MadHound Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 10:58 AM
Response to Original message
9. This has been going on for over a decade, especially with copiers
I used to be in the printing biz, and this tactic started in the late eighties when color copiers started being able to crank out some pretty good copies of cash. Initially Xerox was the first to instigate this practice, but it has now spread to all copier companies and models.

And now that printers are reaching to the heights of reality in the dupllicating arena, the printer companies are have jumped on board the yellow dot bandwagon, and now virtually every single color printer does print these traceable codes. And while this code is only supposed to be used as a tool to fight crime, it can be put to other more sinister uses.

But there are a couple of steps you can take if you are seriously paranoid. The first is to buy your color printer used, from an anonymous source where you pay cash, such as a flea market, pawn shop, etc. The other solution is only for those who are technically savvy, and that is to reprogram your printer so that it doesn't print the code. I have no idea how this is done, but I know that it can be done. A couple of different copier techs have stated this to me, and these guys know their stuff.

While I agree that we need to fight counterfeiting, I'm not sure that this is the right method. The incredible realism that modern color copiers can produce will take your breath away. But there are other less intrusive methods of preventing copier forgery being used, and I would rather go with one of these. My favorite is that if you slap a dollar bill down on the glass, the copier will recognize it for what it is, and simply print out black sheets. I think that if they can do this in copiers, then they should be able to do this in printers, and thus take away those nasty embedded yellow dots.

But until then one should figure that anything that you copy or print is traceable, and act accordingly.
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mattclearing Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 10:58 AM
Response to Original message
11. I've read about this before.
Wouldn't surprise me if it were true.
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FormerDittoHead Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 11:01 AM
Response to Original message
12. Now if you really want to get paranoid... (RFID chips)
http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,69068,00.ht...

The point is that the new replacement for bar codes which WalMart will be introducing, can track items UNIQUELY.

That is, they can't just id what the item is (ie: pack of cigarettes) but they can UNIQUELY IDENTIFY THE PACK.

If found somewhere with the RFID tag on it, for example, they can track it to where and exactly when it was bought. If you paid for it with a Credit or debit card, they can track it directly to you....

Add to that no physical contact need be made to scan it. That is, all you'd have to do is to walk through some gate and, if RFIDs are on you, they could tell exactly where you shop, how much you paid, it the thing was bought by someone else, etc....
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louis-t Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 11:09 AM
Response to Original message
14. Ah, but never would they want to do the same with ammo, or
explosives. Cuz that's private. No need to find out where the bombs come from that blow up abortion clinics.
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