Schneier on Security
A blog covering security and security technology.
« How to Steal the Empire State Building |
| Snipers »
December 15, 2008
Posted on December 15, 2008 at 2:34 PM
• 42 Comments
To receive these entries once a month by e-mail, sign up for the Crypto-Gram Newsletter.
What do they look like on an X-ray?
If your Rubber Hose FS volume is under attack, and they don't believe the distress password you gave them, this would be a great place to hide a second distress volume password!
For those really rubbery hoses!
Isn't this counterfeiting, at least legally?
Thats exactly what I was thinking. "Indistinguishable from a real coin".. what if somebody used it to buy something..
well.. you know, if the coins didnt cost more than the coins worth.
@RH: "this would be a great place to hide a second distress volume password!"
Probably not a good place for any password. On one hand, it's probably affective at slipping something past security. On the other hand, if lost, dropped, left unattended, or otherwise found, the very fact that it looks like currency would be motive enough for someone to pick it up and walk away with it.
I honestly don't know if it qualifies as counterfieting or not. The intent is obscurity, and most who pick up the fake coins would probably realize they are not real money. On the other hand, they may fool some. Good question.
"I wish I don't get my identity stolen."
[Throws fake quarter containing personal info into a wishing well.]
"Now where did I put that quarter?"
quote: "Actual coins are precision hand milled to create a secret compartment inside"
"Actual coins are precision hand milled to create a secret compartment inside"
In that case, it's defacing currency, no?
Of course magicians have been using gimmicked coins like these for many years. They will be indistinguishable from "real" ones and so it is easy to spend them by mistake.
As far as I know no magician (or magic shop) has ever been prosecuted for defacing the currency - although it is technically illegal the authorities will ignore it as the intent is not to profit by passing a fake or underweight coin.
@Paul - LMFAO!
These probably WERE real coins...or "are" may be the better word. I have an old magic trick that is essentially the 50 cent piece, it was called "Scotch and Soda" and it's a pretty old mechanical magic trick.
As for ThinkGeek claiming they are 'indistinguishable' from real coins when closed, unless they are A LOT better, I disagree. Mine looks really good, unless you misalign the face and the back when closed. Also, don't drop it on a table or click it against another coin...the hollow sound is a dead give away that it's bogus. At least with my old one it is.
This is what astonishes me about laptop drive checks. When you can hide 8GB in a coin, only the irredeemably stupid malefactor would hide incriminating info on a hard drive. I make it a policy to carry all personal data on microSD and have an "empty" netbook when traveling.
Heh. Magicians have this problem: distinguishing gimmicked coins from real coins at the cash register. Some gimmicked coins look good enough that they get spent.... oops.
Some can be told on close up that they aren't real, but if this needs a special ring to open, then I'd bet it'd pass fairly reasonable scrutiny.
Even though it may be technicaly against the law, this is one of the many stupid laws we have that never get taken off the books.
If I drill a hole in a quarter I can certainly claim it's my own artistic expression, right?
I realize there is a difference here between drilling a hole in a quarter, and say drilling a hole in the US Mint.
When I was a kid I found an old British penny that was very similar to these coins. It didn't have a compartment inside but it had been milled from a couple of real pennies so the resulting coin had two identical sides. I always won the coin toss.
Crikey! Any Aussie copper would spot the fakes in an instant - we don't have 25c coins here!
This could be an advantage. If you use hollowed out foreign coins, you're much less likely to spend one by mistake. Especially if traveling internationally, possession of a few foreign coins is unremarkable. (Even if you haven't actually been to the country in question: Will the searcher know this? Will they get suspicious even if they know and make the connection?)
It may pay to put some lead in the interior to bring the weight up to (or near) that of a real coin. You just need to leave enough volume for your payload.
Buying these by mail order/credit card might not be such a good idea, however, if you envision a governmental adversary who could have infiltrated ThinkGeek, or secretly supoena your bank records.
How much are you getting from ThinkGeek this holiday season? Inquiring investigators want to know.
Wonder how long these will be on sale?
Google Answers: Defacing US currency?
"Whoever fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins coined at the mints of the United States, or any foreign coins which are by law made current or are in actual use or circulation as money within the United States; or whoever fraudulently possesses, passes, utters, publishes, or sells, or attempts to pass, utter, publish, or sell, or brings into the United States, any such coin, knowing the same to be altered, defaced, mutilated, impaired, diminished, falsified, scaled, or lightened? Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both."
The word "fraudulently" is used at least twice in that paragraph.
@ Angus S-F
Would I be fraudulently owning the modified coin, since I bought it?
And I wouldn't keep these coins long---I'd use 'em to buy the Empire State Building, of course!
One big tip-off that something's amiss ought to be that the coin is a Kennedy half-dollar. Who uses those anymore?
Sheesh. My childhood friends and I are facing some long prison time for all those pennies we placed to be flattened on railroad tracks.
But if I go down, I'm taking these perps with me: http://www.pressapenny.com
Don't have a empty laptop because then there is something else to look for. Have a fake set of personal data on the laptop...
It's only a crime if you do it "fraudulently", ie with intent to defraud. Doing magic tricks, or other gimmicks, with them is probably legal.
Two things you want to do with it ifyou want to reduce the chance of detection.
The first is make sure that with the SD card it weighs just under the correct amount (if you are going to pad with lead make it as a foil or ring to keep the coins balance).
Secondly fill the remaining space with a small amount of silicon rubber to stop the SD card moving around and to help make the coin not sound hollow.
as for the coins of other countries the some of the Euro coins are very good as is the UK 2 Pound coin as these consist of an inner silver coin with a large outer gold rim.
These would be spot on for machining and would still sound like they should do, and of course they have a natural seam so that removes that little problem as well 8)
It's only illegal to alter U.S. currency, and THEN try to pass it off as real.
As Juvenile points out, if this were illegal, those Press-A-Penny people would have gone down decades ago. Their whole business model involves putting vending machines designed to deface US coins at prominent tourist attractions like the Empire State Building.
On the other hand, I guess it's the tourist who actually defaces the currency by turning the crank...
"Whoever fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins coined at the mints of the United States, or any foreign coins which are by law made current or are in actual use or circulation as money within the United States..."
So the manufacture of hollowed out coins, and sale of such as hollowed out coins is legal, being as it isn't fraudulent.
"...or whoever fraudulently possesses, passes, utters, publishes, or sells, or attempts to pass, utter, publish, or sell, or brings into the United States, any such coin, knowing the same to be altered, defaced, mutilated, impaired, diminished, falsified, scaled, or lightened..."
But it sounds like the certain uses of said coins would, in fact, be illegal. IANAL, but from the wording of the law, it sounds like the only real fraudulent use would be to try and pass these coins off as actual currency to someone who didn't know better. Not so sure about that "fraudulently possess" part though...
Codebreakers, p. 669: Then one hot morning in the summer of 1953, newsboy James Bozart, who had just received it as part of 50 cents in change from a customer on his route at 3403 Foster Avenue in Brooklyn, dropped it with four other nickels and a quarter on the staircase. When he bent over to pick it up, he found that it had split in half. One of the hollowed-out halves held a piece of microfilm . . .
considering that there's a machine that flattens pennies in every tourist trap in the U.S., I think we're OK on mangling the coinage.
More importantly - what's the last time you saw a half dollar in circulation. I think that would be the tip-off.
I have a 1992 Kennedy half-dollar in my pocket, right now. I've carried it as a lucky coin for a couple of years.
Kennedy half-dollars are rarely given in change, and even less common is someone giving it *as* change--for the reason you kept yours. Similar to $2 bills.
So if you get caught with something like this while going through customs, how long do you imagine you'll be detained for? Nothing says 'I'm up to no good' like secret compartments with stuff in them. Especially ones that look like that took a lot of effort to make.
Would be an interesting thing to plant on somebody though.
Ken Kesey could have avoided a lot of hassle if he had these puppies back in the day..
Adding some lead isn't going to help much with the weight issue. The specific gravity of lead: 11.3. The most common coinage metals: copper = 9, silver =10.5. (Most modern coins use cheaper alloys, but they're chosen to simulate the weight of the original copper and silver coins.) To fit in enough lead to bring a half-dollar up to weight and still have enough room for a chip, you'd have to shave the front and back down until they were no stronger than foil. The gimmicked coin not only wouldn't ring when dropped on the counter, it would probably also bend and pop open.
A festive winter(?) solstice to you.
With regards to lead in coins to "make weight".
First of I'm not from the US and it's coinage is not that well known to me, and on my infrequent visits it has been a source of anoyance to me (I have little idea what a nickle etc is for instance) primarily due to the lack of identifiable indications.
However in Europe coins have been made from all sorts of metal alloys in the past some quite light. Also some more modern European coins such as the UK 2quid coin (2 pounds) is quite thick (it has writing around the edge as part of the milling). So the scope for doing this may well be greater than for US coins.
Further although lead was once a commonly available metal (considerably less so these days) with a moderatly high density, there are others with higher densities still and better mechanical charecteristics.
Uranium (~19) being one that is not overly difficult to obtain (I once owned several tons of the stuff in the form of a keel weight, and you will also find it in some comercial jet aircraft as counterbalance weights).
There are others such as Osmium (~22) but as you work your way up some have some decidedly unplesant charecteristics and their availability is close to zero for the common man (not so Governments as the Polonium 210 assasinatioon in London showed).
The basic point remains, if you can find an appropriate volume/mass trade off especialy with a metal/alloy of high structural strength then the coin is considerably less likley to be noticed as being "odd" in the company of like coins.
However there is possibly a simpler way to do it which is just mount a hollow coin in a necklace or pendent. As has been pointed out such "keep sakes" or "lucky charms" are not exactly uncommon.
But to be quite honest there are easier places to hide a micro SD card. As I have noted in other postings a metalic packet of "chewing gum" is good for many reasons. Other simple places such as a Zippo lighter, or the metalic button on a blazer have been used in the past.
Then there is the collar of a "button down" dress shirt that has studs or metalic buttons simply slide the stiffener out and drop the SD card in. There is also the crotch seam of jeans with the "501" rivit, the fold between the upper and tounge of "trail boots" "walking shoes" which have metalic studs or lace in zippers (all of which I have had in my luggage or worn through customs since 9/11)
Also have you looked at metalic fasteners on older camera straps, the design of wooden and plastic coat hangers. With a blob of soft glue it can be stuck inside the metalised spray top of quite a few aftershave bottles. The list goes on and on and on
Which is why in reality a hollowed out coin is of little use except for "passing" in an apparently innocent manner (and a stick of gum is almost as innocent).
To be quite honest to "carry" it I would stick a micro SD card in my wallet in amongst the "Chip-n-Pin" credit cards. It is fairly easily explainable as a place of safe keeping along with a spare mobile phone SIM card or two. And you would expect the chips in the credit cards to effectivly hide any signiture a micro SD card is going to give out to an airport grade scanner etc.
And when have you ever seen somebody who has had their laptop taken for "checking" ever have their wallet turned out and properly searched?
> I have a 1992 Kennedy half-dollar in my pocket, right now. I've carried it as a lucky coin for a couple of years.
So, when the poor guy was in the Navy, he got sunk and ruined his back; all but two of his children were still-born or died in infancy, and one of the survivors died young; and when he became POTUS, the poor guy was murdered.
And you carry his coin for luck?!?!
Yes it's legal.
Given that there's little actual value to the metal, even if passed as real coin (please, I'll happily trade you hollow quarters for my solid ones!) given that they cost many times more than their face value.
The law against lightening coins make good sense when coins are actually valuable metal--laws against lightening go back as far as coins do.
Kennedy halfs and other coins are often worn as jewelry, where the weight difference is harder to notice and you are unlikely to spend it by mistake.
One DID get spent by mistake by a USSR spy in the 1950's in NY.NY and the note inside was eventually decrypted.
It was caught by the second person to have it after it was spent, a paperboy.
Schneier.com is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of BT.