Printer Cartridges To Get Encrypted

Long time ago printer makers armed with Gillette business model, charging small upfront price for an inkjet printer, but making up the money on selling that printer cartridges. In some cases, a set of cartridges could cost as much as the printer itself. So printer makers would live happily ever after, if it were not for third-party cartridge manufacturers.

Some of the third-party manufacturers are fair business that refill cartridges and resell them, offering many consumers and businesses cheaper alternatives. Others, however, are involved in illegal practices, such as

  • refilling used cartridges and selling them as “new” – instead of as remanufactured
  • illegally replicating cartridges through reverse engineering
  • hacking printers so they can use any type of ink

In an effort to create a pirate protection, a California based company Cryptography Research Inc. is developing a chip to be integrated into inkjet printers that would prevent from used of side inks cartridges. The chip, called CryptoFirewall, is designed for use in standard manufacturing processes to avoid additional costs.

Cryptography’s vice president of business development Kit Rodgers told

“You can see 95 percent of the grid and you still don’t know how it works,”

The chip uses already known technology of private key encryption to prevent the use of illegal ink cartridges. One crucial flaw of such encryption protecting, say DVDs, was that once hacked, it was hacked forever and the discs could be copied over and over again. The CryptoFirewall chip uses different protection scheme: it generates a separate, random code for each ink cartridge, so hacker would have to crack the code of each following ink cartridge.

Of course, that will not stop all hackers from evil doings, but creates a hard-to-pass obstacle for most of them. HP already showed interest in this new chip, however it holds back until the chip is actually available.

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