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Anti-Counterfeit Scheme


This essay does not describe an existing computer program, just one that should exist. This essay is about a suggested student project in Java programming. This essay gives a rough overview of how it might work. I have no source, object, specifications, file layouts or anything else useful to implementing this project. Everything I have prepared to help you is right here.

This project outline is not like the artificial, tidy little problems you are spoon-fed in school, when all the facts you need are included, nothing extraneous is mentioned, the answer is fully specified, along with hints to nudge you toward a single expected canonical solution. This project is much more like the real world of messy problems where it is up to you to fully the define the end point, or a series of ever more difficult versions of this project and research the information yourself to solve them.

Everything I have to say to help you with this project is written below. I am not prepared to help you implement it; or give you any additional materials. I have too many other projects of my own.

Though I am a programmer by profession, I don’t do people’s homework for them. That just robs them of an education.

You have my full permission to implement this project in any way you please and to keep all the profits from your endeavour.

Please do not email me about this project without reading the disclaimer above.

I am just giving you the barest outline of this project. You will need to do quite a bit of thinking to outwit various counterfeiter strategies.

Let’s say you manufactured a product that was subject to widespread counterfeiting, e.g. CD (Compact Disc) s, medications, designer clothes and accessories, car parts…

Here is a scheme to deter counterfeiting. You must sequence number every individual product, digitally sign that sequence number then apply it as a QR (Quick Response) bar code.

You provide your distributors, retailers and customers with an app for a cellphone or tablet computer to check the digital signature. Since the counterfeiters don’t know your private key, they can’t create labels that will pass the test.

However, they can Xerox legitimate labels from your legitimate products and apply the same label to hundreds of counterfeit products. The cellphone app will not be able to detect that. What can you do?

When someone buys the product, you encourage them to register it by web or snail mail. This marks that sequence number as already sold. If that number later shows up in a scan, you know counterfeiting was involved. This technique is more powerful than you might first think. You are trying to catch every counterfeiter not every counterfeit. As soon as even one product is registered (legit or counterfeit) all remaining products with that same sequence number will come up unambiguously suspicious.

When you scan, if possible you collect a GPS (Global Positioning System) location or rough location. You have to examine the pattern of locations and times to see if that is a likely counterfeit. It could just be a product wending its way through the distribution chain. It a counterfeiter makes say 100 copies of the same label, you should see a flurry of sightings of that sequence number, within such a short period of time that a single product could not have moved around that fast.

digital signatures
QR code

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