Security Technology

How Computer Software Can Prevent Counterfeiting

Trying to scan a banknote with Corel Paint Shop Pro would result in this message popping up on your computer screen

With the onset of devices like colour photocopiers, personal printers, and high-quality photo printers readily available on the market, security features on banknotes are at an all time high when it comes to the technology they employ.

While security features embedded in banknotes are the first line of defense when it comes to protection against counterfeiting, businesses and governments outside of the industry also take steps to help avoid forgeries.

In 2004, the European Union drafted legislation to try and compel computer and software manufacturers to make products that were not able to counterfeit banknotes. That year, the Central Bank Counterfeit Deterrence Group (CBCDG) – an organization of 27 leading world banks – developed and distributed anti-counterfeiting software that computer and software manufacturers could voluntarily incorporate into their products.

Many companies latched on to the idea.

Adobe Photoshop – a mainstay graphics software – would generate an error message if a user attempted to scan banknotes, and a number of printer manufacturers used the software in such a way that only an inch of a banknote would reproduce followed by the web address of a site displaying regulations governing the reproduction of money.

Another graphic program, Corel Paint Shop Pro, would automatically flash this message on the screen should a banknote try to be copied:

“This application does not support the unauthorized processing of banknote images. For more information, select the information button below for Internet-based information on restrictions for copying and distributing banknote images or go to”

Similarly, Hewlett Packard introduced printers able to detect similarities only found on currencies. When printed, the printer automatically altered the colours so the difference between the final product and the original banknote were unmistakable.

Though these developments began some six years ago, many of these companies have kept up to date with anti-counterfeiting measures. Photoshop, for example, continues to include what they call a “counterfeit deterrence system (CDS)” which prevents users from opening detailed images of banknotes altogether.

However, since every country has different laws about banknote reproduction (banknotes can be copied in the US for example for artistic representation), the CBCDG is still in operation, and provides detailed instructions on its website about the rules and regulations regarding banknote reproduction around the world.

Adobe: “Counterfeit Deterrence System”
Central Bank Counterfeit Deterrence Group
The Guardian: “Security Clampdown On the Home PC Banknote Forgers”


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  1. The problem with the implementation of the CDS is that it doesn’t discriminate between lawful and unlawful processing of banknote images. I maintain a web site which serves the banknote industry and publish catalogs for banknote collectors. I adhere to the issuers’ rules for reproduction (overprint with SPECIMEN, reduce size, etc.), but the latest version of Photoshop prevents me from opening an image of a note, whereas earlier versions prevented the printing of the image. Needless to say, I will no longer be buying hobbled software from Adobe and will simply continue to use older versions of software and hardware which do not have these restrictions, just as I am sure most counterfeiters will do, too.

    Posted by Owen Linzmayer | June 30, 2010, 6:01 pm
  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Paper Security. Paper Security said: How Computer Software Can Prevent Counterfeiting [...]

    Posted by Tweets that mention Fortress Paper Ltd., the world leader in banknote & security papers, supplies banknotes paper to central banks and official document paper to governments and companies around the world. -- | June 30, 2010, 8:39 pm

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