Documents you print contain your identity: Your printer spying on you

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Spy-printers
Spy-printers

As we know that the government can read our emails, and listen to our phone conversations and track us but you might have never thought that government can also track you by your printers and every page printed by your printer. Every time we print a document, a secret code also gets printed all over the page. This code can be used to identify the serial number of the printer, brand and date when it was printed and much more information.

NSA is already working with many printer manufacturers like HP, Epson, Brother, Canon, Lexmark, Ricoh, Toshiba, Xerox. US government started this program in early 1990 to prevent counterfeit money printing. The printer prints a yellow dots grid all over the printed page. The size of one rectangular grid is normally of 15 by 8 miniscule and is printed parallel to the edges of the page. The dots track up to 14 7-bit bytes of tracking information. Digital forensics experts and Researchers from Electronic Frontier Foundation were able to decode this encoding.

The little yellow dots in the grid cannot be seen by naked eye under white light. However with the help of magnifying glass or microscope or by illuminating the page with blue light instead of white light, we can see the dots easily. Blue light causes the yellow dots to appear black in dark.

Here is the sample of normal paper and the same paper under microscope and under blue light.

 

Normal printout

faint EFF
faint EFF

 

 

The paper under microscope with dots visible

 

60x EFF
60x EFF

The paper under microscope but under blue lights now the yellow dots grid is easily visible.

 

Blue Light EFF
Blue Light EFF

The same images but with black dots colored as yellow so that you can clearly identify them.

yellow EFF
yellow EFF

Digital forensic expert mentions that the topmost row and leftmost column are for error correction. The rows and columns all have odd parity: that is, every column contains an odd number of dots, and every row (except the topmost row) contains an odd number of dots.

guide EFF
guide EFF

Each column is read top-to-bottom as a single byte of seven bits (omitting the first parity bit); the bytes are then read right-to-left. The columns (which we have chosen to number from left to right) have the following meanings:

  • 15: unknown (often zero; constant for each individual printer; may convey some non-user-visible fact about the printer’s model or configuration)
  • 14, 13, 12, 11: printer serial number in binary-coded-decimal, two digits per byte (constant for each individual printer; see below)
  • 10: separator (typically all ones; does not appear to code information)
  • 9: unused
  • 8: year that page was printed (without century; 2005 is coded as 5)
  • 7: month that page was printed
  • 6: day that page was printed
  • 5: hour that page was printed (may be UTC time zone, or may be set inaccurately within printer)
  • 4, 3: unused
  • 2: minute that page was printed
  • 1: row parity bit (set to guarantee an odd number of dots present per row)

The printer serial number is a decimal number of six or eight digits; these digits are coded two at a time in columns 14, 13, 12, and 11 (or possibly just 13, 12, and 11); for instance, the serial number 00654321 would be coded with column values 00, 65, 43, and 21.

Below is the list of printers and their corresponding EFF test results. As we can see most of the printers except Samsung proved to have some kind of watermarking says digital forensics expert, Jack Williams of International Institute of cyber security. Jack says that you can check your printouts from your home printers and if you can find yellow dots, it means you are being tracked. If you don’t find any dots you can mail your samples to EFF for testing.

 

Table of printers

Manufacturer Model Dots? Comments
Brother
HL-2700CN yes volunteer test
HL-4200CN yes EFF test
Canon
CLC 1000 yes EFF
test
CLC 2400 yes EFF
test
CLC 3002 yes EFF
test
CLC 4000 yes EFF
test
CLC 5000+ yes EFF test
CLC-iR 3200-C1 yes EFF test
Color imageRUNNER C2570 yes EFF test
Color imageRUNNER C3100CN yes EFF test
Color imageRUNNER C3200 yes EFF test
Color imageRUNNER C3200N yes EFF test
Color imageRUNNER C3220 yes EFF test
Color Laser Copier 1150 yes EFF test
Imageclass MF8170C yes EFF test
LBP 2410 pendiente faint dots; could be artifacts
Dell
3000CN yes EFF
test
3100CN yes EFF
test
5100CN yes EFF
test
Epson
AcuLaser C900 yes EFF test
AcuLaser C1100 yes EFF test
AcuLaser C1500 yes EFF test
AcuLaser C1900 yes EFF test
AcuLaser C3000 yes EFF test
AcuLaser C4000 yes EFF test
Fuji: see Xerox
Hewlett-Packard
Color LaserJET 1550L yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 1600 yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 2250LN no
(??)
EFF test
Color LaserJET 2500 yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 2500L yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 2500N yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 2550 yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 2550L yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 2550N yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 2600N yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 2680 yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 2700N yes volunteer test
Color LaserJET 2840 yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 3500 yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 3550 yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 3600DN yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 3700 yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 3700DN yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 3700N yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 4500 no EFF test
Color LaserJET 4500DN no EFF test
Color LaserJET 4500N no EFF test
Color LaserJET 4550 no EFF test
Color LaserJET 4550N no EFF test
Color LaserJET 4600 yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 4600DN yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 4600HDN yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 4600N yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 4650 yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 4650DN yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 4650DTN yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 4700 yes volunteer test
Color LaserJET 4700DN yes volunteer test
Color LaserJET 4700DTN yes volunteer test
Color LaserJET 5M no EFF test
Color LaserJET 5100CN yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 5500 yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 5500ATN yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 5500DN yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 5500HDN yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 5550 yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 5550DN yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 5550DTN yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 8500 no EFF test
Color LaserJET 8500DN no EFF test
Color LaserJET 8550 no EFF test
Color LaserJET 8550DN no EFF test
Color LaserJET 8550GN no EFF test
Color LaserJET 9500 yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 9500HDN yes EFF test
Color LaserJET 9500MFP yes EFF test
IBM
Infoprint Color 1454 pendiente dithering?
Infoprint Color 1464 PS3 yes dithering?
Konica
(Konica/Minolta)
Bizhub C252 yes EFF test
Bizhub C350 yes EFF test
Colorforce 1501 yes EFF test
Colorforce 8050 yes EFF test
DialtaColor CF 2001 pendiente dithering?
DialtaColor CF 2002 pendiente dithering?
Ikon CPP500E yes EFF test
Magicolor 2 Desklaser no EFF test
Magicolor 2200 DL yes EFF test
Magicolor 2210 yes EFF test
Magicolor 2300 DL yes EFF test
Magicolor 2300 W yes EFF test
Magicolor 2350 yes EFF test
Magicolor 2350 EN yes EFF test
Magicolor 2400 W yes EFF test
Magicolor 2430 DL yes EFF test
Magicolor 2450 yes EFF test
Magicolor 3100 yes EFF test
Magicolor 3300 yes EFF test
Magicolor 5450 yes EFF test
Magicolor 7300 yes EFF test
Kyocera
C2630D yes EFF test
FS-C5016N yes EFF test
FS-C5020N yes EFF test
FS-C5030N yes EFF test
FS-C8008 yes EFF
test
Mita KM-C2230 yes EFF test
Lanier
LD238C yes EFF
test
LP125CX/LP126CN yes EFF test
Lexmark
C510 yes EFF
test
C720 pendiente retest
C752 yes EFF
test
C752N yes EFF
test
C760 yes EFF
test
C910 yes EFF
test
C912 yes EFF
test
Minolta:
NRG
DSc38 yes EFF
test
OkiDATA
C5100 no EFF
test
C5150 no EFF
test
C5150N no EFF
test
C5200 no EFF
test
C5300 no EFF
test
C7200 no EFF
test
C7350 no EFF
test
C7400 no EFF
test
C7400N no EFF
test
C9200 no EFF
test
C9300 no EFF
test
C9400 no EFF
test
MIP C5540 no EFF
test
OkiLAN 8100E no EFF test
Panasonic
Workio KXCL-500 yes EFF test
Ricoh
Aficio 1224C yes EFF test
Aficio 1232C yes EFF test
Aficio CL 2000 yes press report
Aficio CL 3000 yes EFF test
Aficio CL 3000E yes EFF test
Aficio CL 6010 yes EFF test
Aficio CL 7000 yes EFF test
AP 206 yes EFF
test
Infotec/Danka ISC 2838 yes EFF test
Samsung
CLP-500 no EFF
test
CLP-510 no EFF
test
CLP-550 no EFF
test
CLP-550N no EFF
test
Savin
C3210 yes EFF
test
CLP35 yes EFF
test
Toshiba
eStudio 210c yes mfr. statement
eStudio 211c yes mfr. statement
eStudio 310c yes mfr. statement
eStudio 311c yes mfr. statement
eStudio 2100c yes mfr. statement
eStudio 3100c yes mfr. statement
eStudio 3511 yes EFF test
FC15 yes mfr. statement
FC15i yes mfr. statement
FC22 yes mfr. statement
FC22i yes mfr. statement
FC25P yes mfr. statement
FC25Pi yes mfr. statement
FC70 yes mfr. statement
Xerox
DocuColor 12 yes EFF test
DocuColor 40 yes EFF test
DocuColor 1521 yes EFF test
DocuColor 1632 yes EFF test
DocuColor 2000 yes mfr. statement
DocuColor 2045 yes EFF test
DocuColor 2240 yes EFF test
DocuColor 3535 yes EFF test
DocuColor 5252 yes EFF test/mfr. statement
DocuColor 6060 yes EFF test/mfr. statement
Phaser 560 no EFF test
Phaser 740 no EFF test
Phaser 750 (Z750V) no EFF test
Phaser 750P no EFF test
Phaser 790 yes EFF test
Phaser 850DP no EFF test
Phaser 860DP no EFF test
Phaser 1235 no EFF test
Phaser 6100 no EFF test
Phaser 6200 no EFF test
Phaser 6200DP no EFF test
Phaser 6250DP no EFF test
Phaser 6350DP no EFF test
Phaser 7300DN no EFF test
Phaser 7300DT no EFF test
Phaser 7700 no EFF test
Phaser 7750DN no EFF test
Phaser 8200DP no EFF test
Phaser 8200DX no EFF test
Phaser 8400 no dithering?
Phaser 8400B pendiente dithering?
Phaser 8400DP pendiente dithering?
Phaser 8400DX pendiente dithering?
Phaser 8400N pendiente dithering?
Phaser 8440DP pendiente dithering?
Phaser 8550 no EFF test
Phaser 8550DP no EFF test
Phaser 8560MFP/D no EFF test
WorkCentre M24 yes EFF test
WorkCentre Pro (all
models)
yes mfr. statement

 

Here is video from a computer forensic experts explaining the logic

Source: http://www.eff.org

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