Exclusive: Bank of Canada found only one poor-quality counterfeit new polymer $100 note, analyzed by RCMP

Thursday, 17 May, 2012

2011 Canada New Polymer $100 - back - pix 18

In a followup interview with Nish Vairavanathan, a Bank of Canada currency analyst, this reporter has confirmed that (as far as Vairavanathan was aware) there is only one known case of counterfeit new polymer $100 banknote. (Note: The new polymer $100 was launched a few months ago in November 2011.) As reported yesterday (also mirrored in an article here), the counterfeit new polymer $100 bill was of very poor quality. For example, the counterfeit new polymer $100 bill did not have the transparent window in the middle of the banknote, one of the most obvious and easily verifiable security feature.

Readers of this article should not be alarmed by the existence of this one known case of counterfeit new polymer $100 banknote, what you can do is arm yourself with the knowledge of the new polymer banknote’s security features. You can start by watching a video of me handling and inspecting a new $100 banknote for its security features up close. Also watch this informative PSA video from Bank of Canada: The New $100 Note. I’ve been informed the single counterfeit new polymer $100 banknote is with the RCMP National Anti-Counterfeit Bureau being analyzed. I asked if a picture of it is available to the media but was told that information like how it looks, where it was found, etc are not being shared (I presume for security or police investigation reasons).

What should Canadians do when we come across suspected counterfeit banknotes?

Any Canadians handling cash, especially those in the front line handling cash as a cashier or merchant, etc, should familiarize ourselves with the new polymer banknotes’ security features. When we see any cash that doesn’t look real, then we can and should refuse it and simply politely ask for another form of payment.

For our safety, don’t confront the payer as it may put ourselves in danger, contact local police instead. Plus the person with the “counterfeit-looking” banknote may be truly innocent and not aware the banknote is potentially a counterfeit. You may be interested to know, Bank of Canada discovered $2.6 million dollars worth of Canadian Journey series counterfeit banknotes last year, 48% are $20 bills and 37% are $100 bills.

Curious readers may be interested to know, the old Canadian Journey series banknote costs 10 cents each to print compare to the new polymer banknote costing 19 cents each to print but will last 2.5 times longer make the polymer banknotes more cost effective in the long term according to Bank of Canada.

Note: This news is marked “Exclusive” because at press time, as far as I can find or search, no news media has reported or picked on the existence of the one poor-quality counterfeit new polymer $100 note and the fact that the RCMP National Anti-Counterfeit Bureau has it under analysis.

(Article is cross-posted to Examiner.com)


Bank of Canada confirms poor-quality counterfeit polymer $100 notes as it launches 4 new PSAs to help educate public to prevent financial crimes

Wednesday, 16 May, 2012

Bank of Canada - pix 00

Yesterday, Bank of Canada unveiled four public service announcements (PSAs) at Toronto Police Service headquarters.

The Bank of Canada takes counterfeiting very seriously and responds by researching and developing new notes with innovative security features that are both easy to check and hard to counterfeit. The Bank of Canada will be unveiling four new public service announcements to help educate the public and assist in the prevention of Financial Crimes.

During the post-press conference Q&A, Bank of Canada representative confirmed with this reporter that since the launch of the new polymer $100 notes in November 2011, there have been attempts to counterfeit the polymer $100 notes and the counterfeit $100s were in circulation. Fortunately, according to the Bank representative, the quality of these counterfeit C$100 notes were of very poor quality, for example, these counterfeit notes didn’t even have the transparent windows, one of the most obvious and easily verifiable security features. Which is why the Bank is emphasizing the importance of educating the public to detect counterfeit polymer notes. You can watch my questions and the Bank representative’s answers at the 20:00 mark of this YouTube video.

Full press conference video: Fighting Fraud On The Front Lines ~ Bank of Canada & Toronto Police Financial Crimes Unit

Bank Note Counterfeiting – from Bank of Canada

A good way to check bank notes is FLP (Feel, Look, and Flip) as explained here at the 3:20 mark.

Some readers may remember I’ve previously written about polymer banknotes since Bank of Canada first announced (in March 2011) that it would launch polymer notes in Canada. The following are my in-depth research articles based on information known or found at the time.

March 2011, “Secrets of Bank of Canada’s new plastic money: An advance look of 12 possible security features

March 2011, “Bank of Canada’s new polymer banknote – Patents & technologies by Securency International

June, 2011, “Canada New Polymer $100 Notes in Nov 2011 – Now your money is smooth & will bounce!

November, 2011, “Canada polymer $100 banknote hands-on look finally! (with video)

Note: See also this 660 News article reporting about the BoC press conference, “Bank of Canada launches fraud prevention campaign“.

Note: article is cross-posted to examiner.com

Bank of Canada - pix 01

Bank of Canada - pix 02

Bank of Canada - pix 03


Innovative and Flawed MintChip Challenge by The Royal Canadian Mint

Sunday, 22 April, 2012

Innovative and Flawed MintChip Challenge by The Royal Canadian Mint

It is refreshing to see the Royal Canadian Mint (RCM) innovatively create and launch the MintChip Challenge to solicit ideas, software apps submissions and discussions from the public. At the same time, I find it very troubling to see the core security basis of the MintChip system has not been released for public review and discussion. In fact, here is the official RCM line in this forum discussion thread,

While we appreciate your interest in the physical chip’s trusted hardware, public-key infrastructure and encryption methods, we are not in a position to release that information at this time.

Well “… not in a position to release that information …”, really? I can appreciate the “coolness” in seeing interesting apps and use cases, but security has to be the foundation of MintChip and other similar products, without a properly reviewed, fully inspected, time-tested cryptographic system as a solid foundation, the rest of the “cool apps” & interesting use cases will not be of use to anyone.

I’ve been a long time reader of security industry expert Bruce Schneier’s ideas and ground breaking book Applied Cryptography (1995) out of curiosity and interest. Bruce wrote this insightful warning signs “Snake Oil” post in 1999

The problem with bad security is that it looks just like good security. You can’t tell the difference by looking at the finished product. Both make the same security claims; both have the same functionality. Both might even use the same algorithms: triple-DES, 1024-bit RSA, etc. Both might use the same protocols, implement the same standards, and have been endorsed by the same industry groups. Yet one is secure and the other is insecure.

Many cryptographers have likened this situation to the pharmaceutical industry before regulation. The parallels are many: vendors can make any claims they want, consumers don’t have the expertise to judge the accuracy of those claims, and there’s no real liability on the part of the vendors (read the license you agree to when you buy a software security product).”

After rereading the listed nine snake-oil warning signs, I get very uncomfortable when I see these words in the MintChip Challenge,

“Using innovative technology, for which the Mint has prototypes and five patents pending, MintChip uses a secure chip to hold electronic value and a protocol to transfer it from one chip to another.

What are in these “prototypes”? How are they tested and verified? How much of the crypto system are kept in these pending patents and how much will remain part of the “trade secrets”? Security through obscurity is a very bad idea.

Of course, in the minds of RCM, they may think the $52,000+ MintChip Challenge prize money is totally worthwhile in exchange of the hundreds of developers’ time and effort. At the same time, if project MintChip fail due to flawed security in the crypto system, the credibility of Royal Canadian Mint will unfortunately be tarnished. So the price is the $52K and the Mint’s reputation!

I urge the Royal Canadian Mint to publish the technical details of the MintChip cryptographic system and invite the security community to properly review and inspect the whole system to ensure it has a solid foundation to avoid wasting people’s time and, more importantly, maintain the Mint‘s hard earned credibility.

MintChipChallenge promo video

[HT Dwayne L in the discussion thread for the link to Bruce's "Snake Oil"]


City of Edmonton goes Google Apps – (Part 1/2) Financial, Technological Impacts

Wednesday, 11 April, 2012

Chris Moore, City of Edmonton Chief Information Officer, interview

Update: Part 2/2 Privacy Issues, USA Patriot Act, FOIP Act has now been posted.

Yesterday, City of Edmonton announced it “will become the first major municipal government in Canada to use Google email and other office technology apps for all City employees“. Google Enterprise stated, “While Edmonton may be the first city in Canada to go Google, it’s in great company with other city governments in North America ─ like PittsburghOrlando and Zapopan, Mexico ─ that have already made the move.” It is only natural for people in Calgary, Toronto, and other cities to ask and find out if there are anything we can learn from Edmonton?

In a video interview with Chris Moore, Chief Information Officier of City of Edmonton, Moore said all 6 departments, 31 branches, 10,000+ people, will move to use Google Apps for Government. The press release states, “The change will be phased in over the next few years with Google email and calendar put in place in late 2012, into 2013 and the other apps available for employees to use late next year.

In fact, Moore told me a few hundred employees are already in pilot projects using Google Apps. (note: While the police services will stay on their separate system, the city’s fire services, parks & recreations, waste management/day-to-day garbage pickup, tax department, etc are part of this move.) In a phone interview with Dr. Jonathan Schaeffer, University of Alberta Vice Provost and Associate Vice President (Information Technology) responsible for moving the university to Google Apps for Education, he said U of A has successfully transition 125,000 people and have 3,000 people to go in a phased migration. The U of A project started in March 2011 and is expected to be completed in early fall 2012.

According to city of Edmonton manager Simon Farbrother, “This move supports our City Vision, The Way Ahead, to use the most innovative technologies available. We will now have a more inclusive work environment where all employees will have access and be able to share and collaborate in real time on the same document whenever they want, in any location, and on any device such as smartphones and laptops.

By going to a cloud-based solution, Moore explained the city is moving away from the old model of software licenses installed on desktops and laptops, with upgrades every year or every other year, to the concept of iterative changes which people have already experiencing in their use of technologies at home.

According to Moore, 3.2 million dollars is the estimated up front cost for moving to Google Apps (e.g. implementation, training, documentation, etc). The cost savings over five years is about 9.2 million dollars, Read the rest of this entry »


NanoTech Security – Plasmonics as an anti-counterfeiting measure for banknotes and pharmaceuticals

Friday, 23 December, 2011

NanoTech Security anti-counterfeiting measure - pix 01NanoTech Security anti-counterfeiting measure - pix 04

I came across NanoTech Security‘s (a Surrey, B.C. based company) interesting anti-counterfeiting measure for banknotes or pharmaceuticals in this Fast Company article “A Never Before Seen Optical Trick Creates Ultra-Secure Cash“. [HT Bruce Schneier]

Imagine a bill covered with microscopic holes that make it glow slightly in the light. It’s tech borrowed from a butterfly, and it may soon be foiling counterfeiters around the world.

If all goes as planned, the world’s supply of cash will soon be secured with a nano-scale optical defense that is as secure as it is visually impressive. [...]

The technology was inspired by the Blue Morpho butterfly, whose brilliant blue coloration comes not from pigment but the way that tiny holes in its scales reflect light. But the tech, called Nano-Optic Technology for Enhanced Security (NOtES), is different from the Morpho butterfly’s wings, and pretty much all other bio-inspired reflective optical technologies, in that it is both extraordinarily thin and functions even in dim light.

NOtES exploits an obscure area of physics to accomplish its bright and sharp display, known as plasmonic (or via Wikipedia). Light waves interact with the array of nano-scale holes on a NOtES display–which are typically 100-200 nanometers in diameter–in a way that creates what are called “surface plasmons.” In the words of the company, this means light “[collects] on the films surface and creates higher than expected optical outputs by creating an electromagnetic field, called surface plasmonic resonance.”

If you are interested in digging deeper into the technical details, have a read of “US patent 2010/0271174 – Security document with electroactive polymer power source and nano-optical display” by I|D|ME‘s Chief Scientific Officier Bozena Kaminska (a list of Bozena’s US Patent) and Chief Technology Officier Clinton K. Landrock (a list of Clint’s US Patent) (by the way, here is Clint’s Twitter).

Here are two informative videos from NanoTech Security so you can see how cool it is.

NOtES – An Introduction

NTS NOtES Master Shim and Embossed Banknote Grade Polypropolyene

I am a tech geek so I love cool technologies but I am also realistic as I understand there are many real world requirements and challenges before this or any other advanced technologies are accepted and adopted.

By the way, Bank of Canada is in the process of launching the 2011 series of polymer banknotes with technologies by Securency International and BoC and printed in Canada by Note Printing Australia (NPA is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Australia). So far, BoC has launched the new polymer $100 banknotes in Nov 2011, and will launch the $50 in March 2012, the widely circulated $20 in Fall 2012. And $10 and $5 before the end of 2013. To deter counterfeiting of banknotes, BoC plans to update its banknotes design faster than before (in 8 years time).

NanoTech Security anti-counterfeiting measure - pix 02

NanoTech Security anti-counterfeiting measure - pix 03

Further links/readings:

* Gizmodo article “The Money of the Future Will Shine Like Crazy”

* NanoTech Security (NTS) is a TSX-Venture listed company and you can download its financial & regulatory filings from the Canadian Securities Administrators SEDAR database by searching for “NanoTech Security Corp“. For some reason, I could only find annual reports from 2003 – 2008. I am surprised I couldn’t find annual reports for 2009 and 2010 in the SEDAR database. What happened to these two reports?

P.S. For the record, here is some not so positive news about Securency International (July 1st, 2011 press release) and Reserve Bank of Australia & NPA (July 1st, 2011 press release).


canada polymer $100 – money “laundering” test – wash and dry

Friday, 18 November, 2011

canada polymer $100 – money “laundering” test – after wash and dry

After a detail (with video) and more serious look at the new Canada polymer $100 banknote, I decided to have some fun and put the brand new $100 to a money “laundering” test. I washed & dried it in a dryer to see what happen.

Non-scientific test results:

* The fold marks are not much worst than regular use.

* The polymer $100 feels noticeably softer after heated up in drier but it feels ok and strong.

* The metallic strip and the holograms are still working great.

Conclusion:

* If you accidentally leave your $100 bills in your jeans pocket, they will survive a wash and dry cycle easily!

canada polymer $100 – money “laundering” test – after wash and dry


Canada polymer $100 banknote hands-on look finally! (with video)

Thursday, 17 November, 2011

2011 Canada New Polymer $100 - back - pix 18

I’ve written and speculated extensively about the new Canadian polymer notes. Finally, I am excited to say I’ve got one in my hand now. Have a watch of this slideshow of the new polymer C$100. In comparison, watch this slideshow of the HK$10 (which is less than US/C $2).

Here is a video of me checking out the new polymer $100, I slowed down the video at various place so you can have a closer look at some features.

Comments:

1) Raised ink: I definitely feel the raised ink on the large “100” and the shoulders and different parts of the bill.

2011 Canada New Polymer $100 - front - pix 09

2) What hidden 100? I have given up trying to find the hidden numbers (using a single light source) in the maple leaf! Some people can see it, not me. So if this security feature is hard to use, or only some people (or small percent of people) can use it, I am questioning if this is a good security feature at all!

Note: I wonder if this feature is the WinDOE® (Diffractive Optical Element) as I wrote in “12 possible security features” in March?

New Bank of Canada $100 Polymer Note - Hidden numbers

3) Polymer but not cheap plastic feel: I actually quite like the feel and don’t feel it is “cheap” or anything thing. It feel like it is good quality. But only time and actually use will tell.

4) Large transparent window and metallic strip: I LOVE them! To me, they are the best part of the bill. They are extremely easy to inspect and tell if it is a real $100 with minimum training! They are hard to fake thanks to Securency International’s security features and patented technologies.

2011 Canada New Polymer $100 - front - pix 06

Further info: In March, I wrote a speculative technology piece with extensive links to patents by Securency International, “Bank of Canada’s new polymer banknote – Patents & technologies by Securency International” After the new $100 was announced in June, I wrote “Canada New Polymer $100 Notes in Nov 2011 – Now your money is smooth & will bounce!

2011 Canada New Polymer $100 - back - pix 22

2011 Canada New Polymer $100 - back - pix 20

2011 Canada New Polymer $100 - back - pix 12

2011 Canada New Polymer $100 - front - pix 02

The HK$10 (less than US/C$ 2)

HK polymer $10 (2007)

Here are some design info about the polymer $100 from Bank of Canada:

“$100 Note – Design Features
Portrait: Sir Robert L. Borden, Prime Minister, 1911–20
Signatures: Left – T. Macklem, Right – M.J. Carney
Size: 152.4 x 69.85 mm (6.0 x 2.75 inches)
Issue Date: November 2011
Theme: Medical Innovation Read the rest of this entry »


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