EU prepares ban on banknote forgery software

By EDRi · August 25, 2004

According to an article in the UK newspaper The Observer, computer and software manufacturers in Europe are to be forced to introduce new security measures to make it impossible for their products to be used to copy banknotes.

The move, to be drafted into European Union legislation before the end of the year, is presented as a necessary measure against people counterfeiting notes with the help of household equipment like laser printers, home scanners and graphics software.

Anti-counterfeiting software developed by the Central Bank Counterfeit Deterrence Group, an organisation of 27 leading world banks including the European Central Bank, has been distributed free of charge to computer and software manufacturers since the beginning of the year. At present use of the software is voluntary though several companies have incorporated it into their products.

The latest version of Adobe Photoshop, a popular graphics package, already generates an error message if the user attempts to scan banknotes of main currencies. A number of printer manufactures have also incorporated the software so that only an inch or so of a banknote will reproduce.

The software relies on features built into leading currencies. Latest banknotes contain a pattern of five tiny circles. On the euro notes they appear in a constellation of stars. Imaging software or devices detect the pattern and refuse to deal with the image.

In his mailing list Politech, the US journalist Declan McCullagh raises doubt about the effectivity of the measure when applied to open source software. “It seems to me that the Eurocratic impulse, while understandable, relies on two important assumptions: end users cannot modify their own software, and the software vendor (or an affiliate) is subject to European law. Neither of these assumptions tends to be true when we’re talking about free or open source software.”

Security clampdown on the home PC banknote forgers (06.06.2004),6903,1232480,00.html

Information from the bank consortium (including European Central Bank)

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