Why You Can’t Copy Money, Make A Missile, Or Hide Your Printer

This article is centered on fun, unique, and hidden ways that technology secretly prevents nefarious uses that you might have never known about, or so we hope. Obviously some of these are for national defense, anti-counterfeit, and others are just for protection of IP. But all of it is very real, and just a few decades in development. Always developing, let’s look at what you can’t do today.

Why You Can’t Print Money, The EURion Constellation

Money is pretty cool. Let’s you doing things. We all know the drill. Well, counterfeit money has been a problem for as long as not having it has been. That’s why technology has come to the rescue of itself, as scanning and printing falls into the hands of everyone. 

Fun Video That Explains It By Wendover Productions

But the short and skinny of the idea: currency is marked imperceptibly with what’s known as the EURion Constellation. This is a digital watermark found hidden in many bills that, as soon as detected by your scanner, with cease to capture the rest of the image, or print the rest of the image. Tah-dah, no printing or scanning money.

Today’s tech uses further, secret techniques to further prevent any kind of trickery, but this is an example of how governments try to stay ahead of the bad guys.

Dots On Dots On Dots

Machine Identification Code is a hidden, secretive ultra-violet sequence of dots that uniquely identify your printer. Developed in the late 80’s for Xerox Printers, the discovery of these marks was only discovered in 2004, and continues in printers today. 

Recently, scientists looking to protect whistle-blowers and journalists have put out software that circumvents this tracking measure, helping them do their jobs in relative safety and by being anonymous. 

GPS Will Disable At 35,000 Ft or 1,200 Mph

You Don’t.

We consider GPS to be a constant companion with a simple mission. Tell where you are, and how fast you’re going. But with some fun limits called CoCOM, or Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Control, you should be warned!

If you are moving at over 1,200 mph or cruising at over 60,000 ft, GPS shuts off.

Although, as pointed out by many people, the odds that you will achieve either, or both, are slim to none. Unless you have ready access to an F-18 and some serious pilot licenses, these are strictly to prevent GPS units from being used to guide Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles being MacGyvered in people’s basements. 

Drones Will be Restricted 1 KM From Airports

So this one happens to be a few years in the making, but should become a thing in the coming months/years. Drones have quickly become a menace. Even regular drone users know that not everyone of their kind are good stewards of the hobby. This had lead to new international drone guidelines (note: not law, but fast becoming the standard), that could lead to geo-fencing hard coded into drone software to prevent operation in restricted airspace. 

Game Dev Tycoon’s Take On Bootleg

Screen of Pirate Mode in Game Dev Tycoon

Maybe another type of protection, this one is a bit more tongue-in-cheek by the developers of Game Dev Tycoon. Of course, getting a copy of a video game has never been easier thanks to digital distribution platforms. So why would people illegally download a game? You wouldn’t download a car! The effects of piracy is still called into question occasionally. So it never hurts to get the idea that supporting the products you consume helps the companies continue to innovate. 

Enter this fun solution: Greenheart Games put out their own pirated copy of their game for people to steal. Long story short, as you progress through the business of building your own game, eventually, the pirates put you out of business. And the fun part? Only the users who illegally obtained their copy had this issue, which of course led to some very amusing costumer service interactions.

Possible Uses In The Future

Digital Rights Management, Coded Anti-Piracy, Machine Identification, and more techniques all have their place in keeping businesses and society moving. Anarchy isn’t as fun as those rock bands make it out to be. That doesn’t mean that it’s always in our best interest though. Between multiple discussions we’ve had with tractors and phones and the Right to Repair movement, these kinds of measures have a great power to hamper personal rights and innovation.

Where this all goes, we’re still finding that out. But know that sometimes, you won’t even know that things happen in every day consumer products that you buy.

If you can think of any more examples of interesting, hidden secrets of this sort, feel free to leave a comment or reach out to us on Twitter/Facebook @ComputerAmerica, and we'd be happy to add them to the list. Thanks for reading!