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#183303 - 10/19/05 05:32 PM Big Brother is Hiding in Your Computer Printer
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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

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

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.

#183304 - 10/19/05 06:55 PM Re: Big Brother is Hiding in Your Computer Printer
terrilynn Offline
Well Capn., your right, big brother is out and about. Some things sound so innocent, but although these new technologies may have great use it depends how it's used.

This article below about radio frequency id being used to track hard copies, files, etc. has been in use for some time and as you can imagine has numerous implications. This tracking system allows files to be viewed on any computer by whomever has the file. (This can be verified with a little digging through the 3M Case Studies Web Site concerning this project.)

What makes this even more frightening is that through various partnerships there is a suite of software products which greatly enhance this technology and it's capabilities! So this is where I believe it becomes dangerous--other companies are jumping on the band-wagon to offer "add-ons" to offer tracking capabilities that allow the chips to be completely unseen to the user and make the frequency amazingly far. Checkpoints may not be known.

But, just thought I would pass this on.

ST. PAUL, Minn., July 14, 2005 – 3M has been awarded a five-year schedule contract from the General Services Administration (GSA) for 3M RFID File Tracking Systems. The GSA contract allows 3M to offer federal agencies a simplified process for obtaining its latest RFID (radio frequency identification) tracking products and systems for tracking physical files, at the lowest possible price. These products are listed under GSA contract number GS-25F-0033R.
“This GSA contract is another milestone in the growing emergence of RFID for applications such as file tracking, and the recognition of 3M as a pioneer and leader in this technology,” said Dave Sayers, marketing development, Security Systems Division. “3M is ready to help government agencies meet their increasingly complex file tracking requirements with superior products and service, and exceptional pricing.”
Traditionally, tracking files to keep their location properly updated and easily accessible when needed has been a cumbersome task, often marked by inefficiencies that result in wasted time and money, as well as reduced security and potential liability. 3M RFID Tracking System vastly improves file tracking. A tiny microchip and antenna are embedded inside a tag affixed to each file, which allows the file locations to be easily tracked through the entire workflow. As a file moves through various offices and checkpoints, a complete file location history is kept and can be easily viewed on any network computer. The systems enable users to easily locate, inventory, and check files in or out. They are easy to implement and can be integrated with existing records management systems.

end of press release

#183305 - 10/20/05 12:29 AM Re: Big Brother is Hiding in Your Computer Printer
The UK government has always denied that there is any government-wide database on civilians, and that the different departments don't exchange detailed information, yet I worked for a defence contractor many years ago that designed and installed the first such umbrella system. I'm sure it's been updated since.


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