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Proceedings Paper

Smart printing technology for counterfeit deterrence
Author(s): Peter J. Harrop
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Paper Abstract

Smart (intelligent) printing is the creation of useful patterns beyond alphanumerics and graphics immediately obvious to the human eye. It employs smart inks, patterns, surfaces and substrates. Recent proliferation of color copiers, personal computers and scanners has facilitated a tenfold increase in counterfeiting in many countries over the past three years. Banknotes, cheques, academic certificates, art work, visitors passes, venue tickets and many other artifacts have been compromised. Paradoxically, the best counterfeits produced by some foreign governments and organized crime are rarely the main problem. The secret services of many countries use forensic science to great effect in pursuing these fairly readily identified sources of limited number. Bad counterfeits usually made on color copiers or computers, with or without color scanners, are the most difficult to combat because they are made by very large numbers of casual counterfeiters who may never commit crime again. For instance, counterfeit banknotes intercepted by the Bundesbank have been photocopies in a fluctuating range of 50 - 84% of cases in the last four reported years. Cheque and other document fraud is also inflated by these burgeoning bad copies and here we must add amateurish alterations using copiers or scanners. For instance, a better academic degree can mean a better job, an interbank transfer form can be 'raised' in value by enormous amounts. The issuer of a 'bad' counterfeit does not mind that it is usually picked up on a second transferral. They are long gone by then or, with banknotes, they can deny that they issued it. First priority in reversing the upward trend of counterfeiting must not therefore be the creation of better secret features traceable by forensic laboratories over extended periods of time. Rather we need better and more obvious optically unique features, not easily emulated, that can be spotted in the split second when several, say, banknotes are handed over in a dimly lit surrounding. It is usually impractical for the recipient to use a portable optical or electronic checker. Nevertheless, better, cheaper, smaller and faster validating instruments would also be a help, particularly for small shops. Here the new Mars Electronics Cashguard banknote validator is great progress. It performs rapid complex analysis on banknotes yet costs well under $500. Designs must improve though. Advanced aliasing takes advantage of the fact that copiers and computer scanners have poor resolution and scan in a certain way. So far it has been useful on color documents: gray versions are particularly effective making words like ILLEGAL COPY appear on all copies. However, smart patterns such as Kalamazoo Copyvoid have been of less use against monochrome counterfeits -- photocopied expensive books, vehicle insurance forms and sheet music for instance. This is because the contrast controls can be used to wipe it out (with color the colors would be ruined by such action). However, the Kalamazoo Laboratories in the UK have just announced a new version of Copyvoid that works at both high and low contrast photocopying or scanning. Indeed, it is also milder and more even to look at so even sheet music can be printed over it using conventional inks and still read clearly. The problem of 'bad ' counterfeits is very severe with 1 in 100 counterfeit banknotes being suffered in some UK locations and Northern Ireland seeing a tenfold increase in counterfeits overall in the last 12 months. Cheque fraud doubles each year in some countries. The solution here must be for the authorities to totally redesign both far more often -- say at least every five years -- and follow best practice in totally withdrawing/invalidating the old ones.

Paper Details

Date Published: 15 March 1996
PDF: 2 pages
Proc. SPIE 2659, Optical Security and Counterfeit Deterrence Techniques, (15 March 1996); doi: 10.1117/12.235448
Show Author Affiliations
Peter J. Harrop, Kalamazoo Computer Group (United Kingdom)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 2659:
Optical Security and Counterfeit Deterrence Techniques
Rudolf L. van Renesse, Editor(s)

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