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It\'s Like DNA On Your Color Prints!
Old 10-20-2005, 03:26 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Sleuths Crack Tracking Code Discovered in Color Printers

By Mike Musgrove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 19, 2005; Page D01

It sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it isn't. The pages coming out of your color printer may contain hidden information that could be used to track you down if you ever cross the U.S. government.

Last year, an article in PC World magazine pointed out that printouts from many color laser printers contained yellow dots scattered across the page, viewable only with a special kind of flashlight. The article quoted a senior researcher at Xerox Corp. as saying the dots contain information useful to law-enforcement authorities, a secret digital "license tag" for tracking down criminals.

The content of the coded information was supposed to be a secret, available only to agencies looking for counterfeiters who use color printers.

Now, the secret is out.

Yesterday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco consumer privacy group, said it had cracked the code used in a widely used line of Xerox printers, an invisible bar code of sorts that contains the serial number of the printer as well as the date and time a document was printed.

With the Xerox printers, the information appears as a pattern of yellow dots, each only a millimeter wide and visible only with a magnifying glass and a blue light.

The EFF said it has identified similar coding on pages printed from nearly every major printer manufacturer, including Hewlett-Packard Co., though its team has so far cracked the codes for only one type of Xerox printer.

The U.S. Secret Service acknowledged yesterday that the markings, which are not visible to the human eye, are there, but it played down the use for invading privacy.

"It's strictly a countermeasure to prevent illegal activity specific to counterfeiting," agency spokesman Eric Zahren said. "It's to protect our currency and to protect people's hard-earned money."

It's unclear whether the yellow-dot codes have ever been used to make an arrest. And no one would say how long the codes have been in use. But Seth Schoen, the EFF technologist who led the organization's research, said he had seen the coding on documents produced by printers that were at least 10 years old.

"It seems like someone in the government has managed to have a lot of influence in printing technology," he said.

Xerox spokesman Bill McKee confirmed the existence of the hidden codes, but he said the company was simply assisting an agency that asked for help. McKee said the program was part of a cooperation with government agencies, competing manufacturers and a "consortium of banks," but would not provide further details. HP said in a statement that it is involved in anti-counterfeiting measures and supports the cooperation between the printer industry and those who are working to reduce counterfeiting.

Schoen said that the existence of the encoded information could be a threat to people who live in repressive governments or those who have a legitimate need for privacy. It reminds him, he said, of a program the Soviet Union once had in place to record sample typewriter printouts in hopes of tracking the origins of underground, self-published literature.

"It's disturbing that something on this scale, with so many privacy implications, happened with such a tiny amount of publicity," Schoen said.

And it's not as if the information is encrypted in a highly secure fashion, Schoen said. The EFF spent months collecting samples from printers around the world and then handed them off to an intern, who came back with the results in about a week.

"We were able to break this code very rapidly," Schoen said.
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Re: It\'s Like DNA On Your Color Prints!
Old 10-20-2005, 03:49 PM   #2 (permalink)
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If you try to scan a 20 dollar bill with certain scanners, you will get an on screen notice that such is forbidden.

And while you are at it, the computer reports you via the internet to the Secret Service.

If you think I am am kidding, think again.

There are reports that certain operating systems have a "back door" to allow the government to access any computer which is online.

Supposedly Gates objected to the inclusion of such a back door, but it was hard pressed in past negotiations.

Big brother is watching.

Everybody say hello to Echelon.

Mark
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Re: It\'s Like DNA On Your Color Prints!
Old 10-20-2005, 04:15 PM   #3 (permalink)
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This has been going on for a while. The large Canon ColorPass color printers with Fiery/EFI RIP's had something similar coded on the prints. The printer could also identify when someone tried to copy paper money (US dollar bills or foreign) or postage stamps and other legal items. The copy would come out black and the copier would lock up and you would have to call repair to unlock it and it got reported.

There use to be rumors that whenever you used a Microsoft program, Word, Excel, etc., that it coded the documents on the electronic version and somehow on the print. You could open the electronic document in another program and you'd be able to find the computer name, ID number, IP number, etc. coded in the file of the machine it came from. They also 'said' that somehow that was also embedded in the print?? I was never really able to find out how accurate the rumors were, but I try not to use MS too much...
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Re: It\'s Like DNA On Your Color Prints!
Old 10-20-2005, 06:47 PM   #4 (permalink)
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echelon didn't do them much good just before 9/11 ... or maybe it was collecting data on the wrong people... people like us?
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Here is how to read the code ...
Old 10-20-2005, 06:55 PM   #5 (permalink)
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This link takes you to a place that shows how the code works and how to read the code on items you've printed:

http://www.eff.org/Privacy/printers/docucolor/

Since the only thing that could really be traced is the serial # of the printer, that means if one does not register the printer, then the serial number could not easily be traced back to the criminal.

Cheers,
rfs
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Re: Here is how to read the code ...
Old 10-20-2005, 08:37 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I am not getting in on this, the FBI will be knocking on all of your doors tonite, LOL... I dont know these people! ok Illuminati?
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like I said. . .
Old 10-20-2005, 08:41 PM   #7 (permalink)
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(see below)
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Re: like I said. . .
Old 10-20-2005, 08:44 PM   #8 (permalink)
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LOL, love that saying... but this gov't is always trying something to monitor us and not what happens to us... that is the God's honest truth...
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Re: It\'s Like DNA On Your Color Prints!
Old 10-20-2005, 09:31 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Not really new technology. I know for a fact Xerox and other copier manufacturers had these on their digital color copiers at least 6 years ago. I just assumed that everything they made after that had the coding in it as well.
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Re: Here is how to read the code ...
Old 10-21-2005, 09:23 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Actually, unless you bought your printer used, or paid cash for it, there will not be any difficulty finding you whether you registered it or not. The manufacturer knows who they sold it to: that entity knows who they sold it to. If you wrote a check or paid with a credit card, I'd say they could find you in less than a day.

So, as with guns, the path of wisdom would now seem to be never to sell or give away such a device, as the chain would then stop with you.

M
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