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Written by: Mike Yang

In a new study out from a UK based research team, scientists have discovered an inexpensive and easy-to-use way to validate the authenticity of any paper document solely by taking a picture of it with a camera.

Capturing the random interweaving of the wooden particles that are used to make up paper, the research team showed that a unique fingerprint code can be captured and verified with 100 percent accuracy using nothing more than a point-and-shoot camera. They further show that the fingerprinting process remains highly reliable even if the paper is treated with rough handling such as crumpling, soaking, scribbling or heating. The fingerprint is unique to every sheet of paper as well, Dr. Feng Hao, co-author and professor in Security Engineering at Newcastle University, said.

“What we have shown is that every piece of paper contains unique intrinsic features just as every person has unique intrinsic biometric features. By using an ordinary light source and an off-the-shelf camera, it takes just 1.3 seconds and one snapshot to capture those features and produce a texture ‘fingerprint’ that is unique to that document. It will largely reduce the amount of overall forgery as well,” he said.

“Cloning the paper document would require reproducing the same random interweaving of the wooden particles in the paper – which is impossible. This can massively reduce the possibility of forgery.”

This technique can be applied to prevent counterfeiting of any physical document that is made of paper material, such as passports or bank notes. One potential application is to verify the authenticity of a university degree certificate. Before the certificate is issued, the paper texture is extracted from the certificate, digitally signed by the institution and printed on the certificate as a barcode. Anyone wanting to verify the authenticity of the certificate would just need to take a picture of the texture fingerprint and the system will compare the new image with the digitally signed copy stored in the barcode.

The algorithm can also correctly identify the box and automatically justify it to the desired position and condition by rotating and masking the undesired parts, which are mostly caused by human errors. This makes it robust against human mistakes while taking the photo.

While many of current technological trends are pushing security measures to become more complex, this is a simple and effective way to ensure that documents are genuine without expensive security features. A good example is passports; more than 100 countries issue passports with radio chips embedded in them in order to ensure that they are genuine, but this new technique could keep passports secure at a much lower cost.

CC By-SA image by their.