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Banknotes Go Electronic To Outwit Counterfeiters 441

Posted by samzenpus
from the electric-benjamins dept.
suraj.sun writes "Modern banknotes contain up to 50 anti-counterfeiting features, but adding electronic circuits programmed to confirm the note's authenticity is perhaps the ultimate deterrent, and would also help to simplify banknote tracking. From the article: 'A team of German and Japanese researchers created arrays of thin-film transistors (TFTs) by carefully depositing gold, aluminum oxide and organic molecules directly onto the notes through a patterned mask, building up the TFTs layer by layer. The result is an undamaged banknote containing around 100 organic TFTs, each of which is less than 250 nanometres thick and can be operated with voltages of just 3V. Such small voltages could be transmitted wirelessly by an external reader, such as the kind that communicates with the RFID tags found on many products.'"
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Banknotes Go Electronic To Outwit Counterfeiters

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  • Go electronic! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by alexandre_ganso (1227152) <surak@surak.eti.br> on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @03:58PM (#34644568)

    Why do we still carry money anyway?

    • Re:Go electronic! (Score:4, Informative)

      by sohmc (595388) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:02PM (#34644622) Journal

      How else are you going to tip your stripper?

    • by ByOhTek (1181381)

      I do because I don't like part of the credit card companies business model, and would rather pay cash when possible.

    • by DubThree (1963844)
      Have you ever tried to pay for crack-cocaine using a credit card or your PayPal account? It's tough. I've got to use banknotes or food stamps.
      • I know at least one place where the guy comes in a motorcycle to deliver you cocaine, and accepts credit card. Appears on the bill as pizza.

        • by spun (1352)

          I know at least one place where the guy comes in a motorcycle to deliver you cocaine, and accepts credit card. Appears on the bill as pizza.

          Well, sure, cocaine. But not crack. As Whitney Houston said, "Crack is a poor person's drug."

    • Part of the problem, particularly in the US, is there isn't a good person-to-person electronic payment system that is easy to use, secure, and low cost. So let's say you pay for lunch on your credit card, how do I pay you back? Paypal requires we both have accounts, go to a computer, transfer, incur a fee, wait, and so on. Unless you happen to be a business owner you yourself don't accept credit cards. So cash is the only easy way.

      Can also apply to businesses. Like when I had a local plumber come out to fix

      • by metrix007 (200091)
        I've always thought this was ridiculous. In the rest of thje developed world I can send to another persons bank account any amount for free. It may take a few business days, but absolutely no need for paypal.
        • We have that too, it’s called “personal check”... though it does have the drawback of requiring you to trust that they actually have that much money in the account, and the check clears.

      • It's always good to have paper as an option. I suspect the real driving force behind this idea if it is implemented will be from government agencies wanting an effective tracking system for cash. God forbid we pay the neighbor's kid to mow the lawn without the government knowing about it.
    • Re:Go electronic! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vux984 (928602) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:11PM (#34644734)

      Why do we still carry money anyway?

      Primarily so we can give it to who we want in the amounts we want, and we don't require Visa/Mastercard/Government/Paypal approving of the entity you are transacting with.

      Essentially it's actually an important piece of protecting our freedom.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by blair1q (305137)

        So...you want to carry a government document...to prove you're free.

        Got it.

        • I pay in chickens.

        • Re:Go electronic! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:26PM (#34645658)

          It's still a form of stored value that can be transacted between 2 parties without government interference (if the transfer is done physically). Can't say the same for Visa/Mastercard/Paypal/Bank of America.

        • Re:Go electronic! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by real gumby (11516) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @06:52PM (#34646980)

          Yes. Your quip is clever and funny, but to be serious for a second it is important to realise that government a priori does not automatically mean "nonfree" however much the popular rhetoric says so. For example the existance of maintained public roads increases your freedom of movement. A putatively impartial judiciary that enforces contract increases your freedom of commerce. A public agency that hunts down murderers increases your freedom unless you're a murderer etc etc.

          OK OK, that being said we can start to argue about the dividing line in enabling and restrictive freedoms, Leviathan, 8000 years of political philosophy, abuse of power etc. But the point remains: people form and participate in/with governments because they feel they will be more free with them than without them. And people are fallible....quite fallible.

          (and for the record this cash tracking is a horrible idea)

      • Re:Go electronic! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anachragnome (1008495) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:45PM (#34645034)

        "...Essentially it's actually an important piece of protecting our freedom..."

        Was. (if this idiocy is implemented)

        The article basically describes RFID tech capable of being built into money. These RFIDs can be read at any point-of-sale cash register. No? Give the government a year or so, as this is the real purpose of all of this--tracking every fucking dollar spent (not to mention the person doing the spending).

        As with any RFID system, use your microwave oven liberally. 5 seconds is usually enough. If enough people do this, the whole scheme falls apart as constant "counterfeits" will be a deterrent to doing business and people won't trust the RFID pass/fail determintation. Besides, what happens if your hundred-dollar bill RFID malfunctions (from, say, being crumpled up in a pocket while going through the washer?) and no longer communicates? Are you out a hundred bucks? Will the clerk waiting for you to pay for a full shopping cart of groceries care?

        It isn't a collar unless you let them put it on you.

        • by mooingyak (720677)

          These RFIDs can be read at any point-of-sale cash register. No? Give the government a year or so

          Someday, but a year? Not even close. There are plenty of retailers still using pre-broadband POS systems. Eventually they all get swapped out, but a year is optimistic (or pessimistic given your POV) even for the ones that go cutting edge. This stuff moves slowwwwwwwwwwwwly.

        • Re:Go electronic! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by infinite9 (319274) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @07:20PM (#34647282)

          Was. (if this idiocy is implemented)

          The article basically describes RFID tech capable of being built into money. These RFIDs can be read at any point-of-sale cash register. No? Give the government a year or so, as this is the real purpose of all of this--tracking every fucking dollar spent (not to mention the person doing the spending).

          As with any RFID system, use your microwave oven liberally. 5 seconds is usually enough. If enough people do this, the whole scheme falls apart as constant "counterfeits" will be a deterrent to doing business and people won't trust the RFID pass/fail determintation. Besides, what happens if your hundred-dollar bill RFID malfunctions (from, say, being crumpled up in a pocket while going through the washer?) and no longer communicates? Are you out a hundred bucks? Will the clerk waiting for you to pay for a full shopping cart of groceries care?

          It isn't a collar unless you let them put it on you.

          As a christian, stories about tracking purchases are very interesting to me. End-time prophecies say that we'll eventually end up with a one-world cashless financial system where the government can approve or deny any transaction in real-time. Say something bad about the government? Associate with the wrong people? Refuse to take this mark that says you agree to worship the mandated one-world religion instead of whoever you want? No transaction for you... and the police will be there in a moment. Please remain calm.

          Just 30 years ago, none of us thought this would be in our lifetimes. After all, who could imagine stringing together 1,000,000 apple 2Es over phone lines to make this work? Now? I think I could design the system myself. We're not supposed to set dates. But at least this part of the puzzle can happen pretty much right now.

          Ordinarily, I'd think about this stuff and feel a sense of dread. But I'll be gone when all this happens. It's you non-christians who get to deal with that mess. ;-)

          • Re:Go electronic! (Score:4, Insightful)

            by shutdown -p now (807394) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @08:22PM (#34647798) Journal

            End-time prophecies say that we'll eventually end up with a one-world cashless financial system where the government can approve or deny any transaction in real-time.

            Not without a lot of baseless guesswork, they don't.

          • As a christian, stories about tracking purchases are very interesting to me. End-time prophecies say that we'll eventually end up with a one-world cashless financial system where the government can approve or deny any transaction in real-time. Say something bad about the government? [snip snip] It's you non-christians who get to deal with that mess. ;-)

            When you talk about profecy, please provide a reference.

            Ah, "one-world cashless financial system" cannot be found in the Bible, you say? Come on, "mark of the Beast" is not coming close to describing cash or tracking devices. The text pretty much describes a *tatoo worn on the forehead*.

            Stop "interpreting" texts by inserting meanings they do not have. That is a big source of man-created wars and strife, which is NOT christian (example: cusades, jihad, Al-Quaeda, inquisition).

            Moreover, a "one-world curren

    • by pilgrim23 (716938)
      A very large portion of the US Economy is conducted in cash. This is all to track that. To Track, to Control, to Tax.... Just another step towards the new economy for the New Age: Barter.
      • by SLi (132609)

        What I've been wondering (not that I'd hope to see it implemented) is why there are no bar codes in banknotes. Wouldn't that be a relatively cheap and low-tech way to enable rather widespread tracking?

    • by rolfwind (528248)

      Why do we still carry money anyway?

      Because some people recognize that once we go completely electronic, that the government will have you by the balls. Kiss any semblance of a free country goodbye.

      Being a Restaurateur in Germany used to be a fairly lucrative thing, even for a mom and pop operation - especially for a small operation. But fairly recently, if you operate a restaurant there, you have to have you cash register hooked up right to their version of the IRS. Automatic transfers taxes too and the

      • Usually economies run well if the government tolerates a small amount of black market activity. The tighter grip they exert, the less productivity there is.

        ...and the more star systems slip through their fingers.

    • I don't report cash income to the IRS. :)
    • by Nyder (754090) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:16PM (#34644788) Journal

      Why do we still carry money anyway?

      Because when you pay people like me.

      I don't accept checks, money orders, paypal transactions, nor do I accept credit/debit cards.

      I do accept cash. United States Dollars, to be exact.

      What do I do?

      I fix your computer. I'm the guy, who makes house calls, to fix whatever the fuck you, or someone else did to mess up your computer.

      Sure, you can go to the geek squad, or pay some "professional" place to do it. chances are, they won't fix it correctly, charge you way more then I do, and don't do house calls. Not to mention they might report something you have on your computer to some government agency. You didn't know the pics of your kids in the bathtub is considered child porn? That would suck to find out on the way to jail.

      Or you can call me up, see when i'm free, and get your shit fixed correctly the first time. I also do the barter system, but that's mostly for weed dealers. Oh, and not only do I have better things to do then poke around your harddrive for whatever you have, I could care less what you have on your computer. Not my business, and your paying me cash to keep it not my business.

    • Re:Go electronic! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bobdotorg (598873) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:26PM (#34644882)

      Why do we still carry money anyway?

      Cash = Anonymity.

    • by operagost (62405)

      So the government can't take all your money instantly-- without due process, of course.

      That being said, they're collectively confiscating all of our wealth via inflation.

  • RE: Go electronic! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nkwe (604125) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:00PM (#34644598)

    Why do we still carry money anyway?

    For anonymous transactions. This puts that concept at risk.

    • by blair1q (305137)

      Why do you need to make anonymous transactions?

      Ohhhh. You mean illegal transactions.

      • He means convenient transactions. Go shout that you have nothing to hide somewhere else.
      • by vlm (69642)

        Why do you need to make anonymous transactions?

        Ohhhh. You mean illegal transactions.

        Do you mean illegal now, or illegal later? How can I know what will be illegal later, and thus protect myself now?

        You can understand why certain ethnic groups in Germany might be nervous at the idea of providing a financial record of all menorahs ever sold, even if at this point they are certainly currently legal. Who benefits from that kind of record? The people or the state?

        Same story different country and decade with ammo, alcohol, tobacco, certain firearm components, jtag smart card interfaces, gold

  • by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:00PM (#34644600)
    It's hard for me to imagine any security measure economical enough to implement in $20 bills could not be replicated by a really well-funded forger, such as a foreign intelligence agency. If there is any "ultimate" deterrent, it would involve tracking the movement of funds from one individual to another, i.e. marginalizing the use of cash, or making it equivalent to electronic banking, so Big Brother can keep an eye on it.
    • by ByOhTek (1181381)

      The only "Ultimate" deterrent would be to make it impossible to produce the currency for less than the value of the currency.

      • by spazdor (902907)

        And that's why everyone hates pennies.

      • by vlm (69642)

        The only "Ultimate" deterrent would be to make it impossible to produce the currency for less than the value of the currency.

        As long as the existence of the currency over the lifetime of the physical object generates more tax value by being used, than it cost to make, a govt will run a profit if they own the mint. If it costs $21 to make a $20, thats perfectly OK if the bill is so durable that each 5% sales tax and 30% income tax adds up to $22 of revenue from that physical artifact.

        Also there is no deterrent from a wealthy enough foreign power minting bills just to mess with you. Kind of like you don't need to make a profit on

    • That's what this story is about. The government being able to track the movement of cash. First they will put these electronic circuits in the money so that when someone wants to check if a bill is legitimate they can scan the bill for the electronic code, the scanner will check with the centralized database that the electronic code in the bill is one of the legitimate ones. After these scanners become common, they will be required for all business transactions.
    • It's hard for me to imagine any security measure economical enough to implement in $20 bills could not be replicated by a really well-funded forger, such as a foreign intelligence agency. .

      Inflation.

  • What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

    • by durrr (1316311)
      Thives get RFID readers with antennas, check how much you are carrying and only pick high value targets.
      Oh, and no use carrying a "fake" wallet with low bills. They'll scan you just to make sure they got everything once again after you hand over the wallet.
      • Good. That gives me time to get out my pistol and kill the thieves. Then I'll take their wallets, turnabout being fair play.
        • At close range, getting out a gun is useless. Even Miyomoto Musashi said guns and bows were supreme weapons on the battlefield ... until you're within sword clashing distance. You can't turn fast enough to point the tip of a sword at an attacker; but you can bring the broad side up to block the other sword. Similarly, if you're within stabbing range it's too late to "get out my gun." If you already have a gun pointed at you, it's also well into too late.

          The threat model for carrying a gun is when you

      • by camperslo (704715)

        Maybe a quick toasting in a microwave oven would help. It's probably easier than carrying your cash in tin foil. What else is there? The dollar coin? Maybe they'll soon make $20 or $50 coins.
        Gotta have change for the parking meter...

        The sniffing for high value idea has been used before. I read that some sniffed for wireless MAC strings with an Apple vendor ID as the first half of the address to target places to break into.

      • by vlm (69642)

        Much safer to use that type of hardware to upgrade the firmware on a $1 up to $20, then visit the automated checkout lanes.

        Honestly, I sometimes wonder how automated checkout lanes stay in business. Often they dont. But you gotta wonder what kind of stuff appears in their bill receptors.

  • What's the point? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Skidborg (1585365) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:06PM (#34644682)
    All that money won't be worth the paper it's printed on in a few years anyway.
  • by meerling (1487879) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:07PM (#34644694)
    I wonder if their new banknotes will survive the US money test.

    Assuming it does and gets adopted by countries, it'll be time for the shielded wallets that are RFID proof.
    I figure a flame war will start over this somewhere :)

    Here are just a few of those sites you can get those shielded wallets from for the more paranoid amongst you : )

    http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/security/8cdd/
    http://www.idstronghold.com/
    http://www.tamperseal.com/rfid-blocking-leather-wallet-p-332.html
    http://rfidwallet.org/
  • ... publish the secret salt bits added to the hash to sign the note digitally and we will be back to square one.
  • You should check out Bitcoins. http://www.bitcoin.org/ [bitcoin.org] The mathematics behind it are genius. I wander how long it will take before governments try to shut it down.

  • by perpenso (1613749) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:10PM (#34644726)
    And how durable is the circuitry? Abrasion, water, folding, chemicals (ex. laundry soap), etc are usually hazardous to circuitry. Seems like there will be a few false positives, assuming of course they could even manufacture such notes in a cost effective and reliable manner. The US is already having problems printing its own money.
  • This is nothing a few seconds in the microwave won't fix.

    Of course, I had to use a hammer to fix my passport's problem.

    • by mark-t (151149)
      Yup... but then places could easily refuse to accept it... just as some places right now already refuse to take 50 or 100 dollar bills because they fear counterfeiting issues. You would have to take an extra trip to the bank to exchange it for something that the business would take, or else do business elsewhere.
  • by l2718 (514756) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:11PM (#34644742)
    Do we really want to

    ... simplify banknote tracking.

    At the moment, cash is basically the only (mostly) anonymous means of payment available. Since when is less anonymous is a good idea?

    • by zero_out (1705074)

      Do we really want to

      ... simplify banknote tracking.

      At the moment, cash is basically the only (mostly) anonymous means of payment available. Since when is less anonymous is a good idea?

      When you're a government agency, or corporation. Remember, corporations control the (U.S.) government, and the government controls the money. Sure, any group can create its own form of currency, and some communities/municipalities have done just that. Just try to exchange that local currency for anything outside of town, however, and it all falls apart.

    • by Nadaka (224565)

      Do we really want to

      ... simplify banknote tracking.

      At the moment, cash is basically the only (mostly) anonymous means of payment available. Since when is less anonymous is a good idea?

      Since we decided that this whole freedom thing that those hippies who founded this nation so adored was over rated. And then we decided to try out a fascist police state and corporate kleptocracy run by a class of people who have the right to be given more money, not for work, but because they already have a lot of money.

  • by snookerhog (1835110) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:13PM (#34644752)
    what was wrong with using where's george [wheresgeorge.com] to track the usage of bills?

    seriously though, once cash is traceable, it ceases to be useful. unless they only use it on very large bills and they reinstate the higher denomination bills [wikipedia.org]

  • Archimedes' principle. The Fisch [fisch.co.za] implementation is pretty good.
  • by metrix007 (200091) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:17PM (#34644790)
    They were developed by the Aussie government in the 80's, and they are basically impossible to counterfeit. They are also waterproof, near indestructible etc.
    Poorer countries such as Nicaragua, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Kuwait use them, so why have other countries not caught up?

    This isn't just the US, but the EU and UK as well. Why stick to paper when much more advanced tech has been around for over 20 years and is being used by third world countries?

    • by theNAM666 (179776)

      >Poorer countries such as Nicaragua, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Kuwait use them,

      Yes, but you neglect to mention that Nigeria and Bangladesh have only 10 approx. $10,000US-equivalent notes in circulation, and Nicaragua has only one of them, which constitutes its entire national reserve and is now, due to some unfortunate incidents including the intervention of a CIA stripp-- er, agent-- in the hands of a drug cartel-- in Mexico. Kuwait, finally, is *not* a poorer nation, but considers oil to be a m

    • by blair1q (305137)

      Because certain segments of the government understand that paper money is based on an illusion (although the illusion of value doesn't mean they're valueless, just that it's a value held in an illusion and not in your hand) and if you change it too much too fast people start to beleive the haze is falling away from their eyes, which can have destabilizing effects as they start to refuse the paper money, stripping away its ability to carry the value it actually has.

      (This isn't the problem pennies have. The

    • by muphin (842524)
      they actually did a trial run in the US using 'our' notes, the polymer ones, AKA Securency.
      a huge portion of people using the notes didn't like the way they felt, therefore the stopped using them. it wasn't because there were sturdier and easier to distinguish (colour coded)
      Americans are very stubborn and slow to take things up, so don't expect too many changed with their currency, i bet they would invest billions in making their money feel the same but change everything else, great 'money management' the
      • Don't make it optional. When you stop printing paper bills in favor of polymer, and remove all the paper bills from circulation as they return to banks (same process that happens now with existing bills), people will use them.

        And I have approximately zero sympathy for the argument that we should give up on a solution that's more economical and harder to counterfeit because "people don't like the way they feel".

    • by Kozz (7764)

      Why stick to paper when much more advanced tech has been around for over 20 years and is being used by third world countries?

      It seems to me that, provided the "old" currency formats continue to be acceptable payment (think twenty-year-old $20 USD bill), why bother counterfeiting the new styles? Just continue to counterfeit the older style bills.

      • Typically when you change the banknotes, you gradually phase out the old ones - first they are legal tender, then they can be accepted or not at merchant's discretion, then they can only be exchanged at a bank, and finally they're just paper.

  • ...but adding electronic circuits programmed to confirm the note's authenticity is perhaps the ultimate deterrent...

    Because everyone knows it's impossible to spoof electronics.

    • by Minwee (522556)

      And I'm sure that nobody would ever consider that there are about a hundred individual circuits in each newly minted bill, but that a counterfeit note would need only a few of those to pass as genuine.

    • by blair1q (305137)

      Putting the word "perhaps" in the news makes the article a spoof off journalism.

  • Noone tries to counterfeit Zimbabwean dollars anymore, because counterfeit money would actually be more valuable than real ZWD...

  • The Interrogation (Score:4, Informative)

    by Petersko (564140) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @11:03PM (#34648828)
    "Mr. Petersko, we have a record of you receiving this bill at 5:00 p.m. from the ATM. At 5:40 p.m. a marijuana dealer was arrested and he had possession of that bill. Can you explain that?"

    "No, sir, I cannot. From 5:00 p.m. until 5:58 p.m. I was fucking your mother in the alley by the ATM. I can't count it as an alibi because she'll deny it, but if you'll examine her anus you'll find some compelling evidence. Alternatively, take your suspicion and go away."

    And then I'll pray the L.A.-style cop beating will be caught on cell phone.

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