Many color printers embed grids of dots that allow law enforcement to track every document they output.
The FBI filed a criminal complaint against Reality Winner, an NSA contractor, who the agency alleges stole classified documents and shared them with an “online news outlet” believed to be The Intercept. Because the documents in question appear to have been printed, some security experts have been wondering if a mysterious code used by some printers is to blame for Winner’s capture. That code is an almost-invisible grid of dots that some color printers ink into every document they print.
According to a research team at the Illinois Institute of Technology that worked on ways to counteract the dot-code, some printer manufacturers don’t even acknowledge that they exist or provide any information about how they work. “It’s a trivial way of tracking,” said Louis McHugh, one of the IIT researchers. “There’s nothing high-tech about it.”
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