[Dave Birch] I was listening to a recent episode of Skepticality, about the TV show “Numb3rs”. The presenters were interviewing one of the writers about the making the show and they made a comment that caught my money-obsessed ear. The writers said that they had been researching a show about counterfeiting and during the course of this research they had copied a $20 bill on a photocopier to see how well it came out. Shortly thereafter they got a phone call from the US Treasury! The photocopier was online, and phones home when someone tries to copy money! (Incidentally, the Treasury guys weren’t very happy to hear the proposed plotline about the FBI investigating some counterfeiters because it’s the Secret Service — until 2002 part of the Treasury — who take care of that.) I thought they might be exaggerating, but it turns out that not only do some photocopiers have this feature built in to them, there are many printer drivers that won’t print scanned bills!!. Ever-vigilant for the cause of monetary trivia, I tried it out myself. I scanned a fiver and tried to print it, and I got this error message.

It turns out that this functionality is much more widespread that you would have thought (if, like me, you hadn’t really thought about it).

Adobe and other makers of image-manipulation programs have, at the behest of a little-known group of national banks, inserted secret technology into their programs to foil counterfeiting, the companies acknowledged this week.

[From Adobe, others slip anticounterfeiting code into apps – CNET News]

Hardly secret, but it’s certainly unpublicised. And I shouldn’t think it helps much, since it only took me two minutes to find a crack to download to turn off the functionality in Photoshop. Anyway, that’s not the point. Being a nerd, I immediately started to wonder how do they do it and it turns out that there’s a bankers’ organisation that provides the relevant data.

Photoshop and other programs will no longer be able to open files containing images of several nations’ currencies, said Kevin Connor, director of product management for Adobe. The code to detect such images came from the Central Bank Counterfeit Deterrence Group, a low-profile association representing the national banks from Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

[From Adobe, others slip anticounterfeiting code into apps – CNET News]

There are many companies involved, not just Adobe, and I’m not saying anything bad about any of them. I’m just genuinely interested that one particular type of old technology (cash) should get this kind of protection afforded to it. It must cost the companies money to implement the anti-counterfeiting technology in their products, but I suppose it might generate other useful skills or spin-offs.

That’s why researchers at HP Labs and experts from the company’s printing and imaging business got together at the request of U.S. and international officials to help clamp down on counterfeiting.

[From HP Labs : News : HP Helps U.S. Clamp Down on Counterfeiting]

I would have thought that a better way to lessen the impact counterfeiting would be to reduce the use of cash, but I always think that about everything.

These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]

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