NSA Leaker Outed Thanks to Modern Printer Technology  

Image credit: Aaron Yoo/Flickr

On Saturday NSA executive Reality Leigh Winner, who leaked personal papers to The Intercept, was arrested. The leaked comprehension news from a NSA minute Russian cyberattacks allegedly destined during choosing officials and electronic voting apparatus association VR Systems.

The Justice Department’s detain aver ask settled a personal information printed was tracked to Winner, one of 6 who printed out a report, and a customarily one who had e-mail hit with The Intercept. The printed news scanned and published by a announcement contained tracking information used to brand and detain Winner.

The U.S. Government Agency conducted an inner review to establish who accessed a comprehension stating given a publication. The U.S. Government Agency dynamic that 6 people printed this reporting. WINNER was one of these 6 individuals. A serve review of a 6 individuals’ table computers suggested that WINNER had e-mail hit with a News Outlet.

How Steganography Outed Winner

Security researcher Robert Graham showed how a NSA tracked Winner down regulating customarily a scanned report. Turns out, scarcely each printer is indeed a disreputable fuck that will out you, interjection to a small pretence called printer steganography.


Like unchanging steganography, that is a use of stealing information (think invisible ink or a watermark on a photo) inside another square of data, printer steganography uses dots or lines printed via a request that conform to a certain pattern. It’s an invisible watermark that contains metadata like a date and time of copy and a printer used.

Your Printer Is Probably Telling on You

According to a Electronic Frontier Foundation, these steganography dots seem on tone laser printers and tone laser photocopiers, and are customarily taken on pages printed in black an white or on tone inkjet printers. The ones on Winner’s printed page were from a Xerox DocuColor printer, and uncover a page was printed on May 9, 2017 during 6:20am. The EFF has a DocuColor tracking dot decoder so we can determine a information yourself.

It’s protected to assume a NSA only took a demeanour during a timestamp dark on a scanned news and found out who was copy what and when. Most new printers have this watermarking functionality preinstalled. You can’t accurately stop your printer from lacing your request with tracking information, and there’s no foolproof approach to obscure it or anyone attempting to review it if they know how to interpret a pattern.

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Posted by on Jun 6 2017. Filed under Gadgets. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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