I can track you by your Desktop Printer – Printer Steganography

Did you know your desktop printer has been leaving bread crumbs anyone could follow? Are you lost as to what I am talking about? This article may seem like something out of a james bond movie. Quietly, several printer companies have been encoding serial numbers in their prints for years.  A simple shine of an LED flashlight can reveal a tracking code that will bring the FBI(or anyone else smart enough to follow the clues) right to your door should they need to track you down.
It is known as Printer Steganography.

Printer steganography is a type of steganography – “hiding data within data”[1] – produced by laser printers, including Brother, Canon, Dell, Epson, HP, IBM, Konica Minolta, Kyocera, Lanier, Lexmark, Ricoh, Toshiba and Xerox brand color laser printers,[2] where tiny yellow dots are added to each page. The dots are barely visible and contain encoded printer serial numbers and timestamps. Unlike many forms of steganography, the hidden information is not intended to be available from a computer file, but to allow serial number and time of printing to be determined by close examination of a printout.

Color laser printers and copiers appear to be the type mostly involved, the measure being brought in during the 1990s by Xerox and other companies seeking to reassure governments that their printers wouldn’t be used for forgery. The identification is by means of a watermark, often using yellow-on-white, embedded in the printout of each page, and in conjunction with other information can be used to identify the printer which was used to print any document originally produced on a wide range of popular printers. It has been reported that monochrome printers and copiers from major manufacturers also include the markings. It may be actual text, or a repeated pattern of dots throughout the page, more easily visible under blue light or with a magnifying glass, and is intended to produce minimal visible change to the printout, ideally being imperceptible to the naked eye”

~Source: Wikipedia

Still don’t believe me?  Check out this excerpt from an article from 2004 – it appears this has been happening for YEARS, and most of us hadn’t a clue.

“Peter Crean, a senior research fellow at Xerox, says his company’s laser printers, copiers and multifunction workstations, such as its WorkCentre Pro series, put the “serial number of each machine coded in little yellow dots” in every printout. The millimeter-sized dots appear about every inch on a page, nestled within the printed words and margins.

“It’s a trail back to you, like a license plate,” Crean says.”

The full article can be read here.  – PCWorld

How’s that for a fun fact of the day!  Ever had this used against’ you or in your favor?  We would love to hear how below


2 thoughts on “I can track you by your Desktop Printer – Printer Steganography

  1. hey
    i need to know where does the printer get this data like date and time for steganography.
    do they have any storage in them
    or they randomly picks the system date……

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