Counterfeiters are getting much better. In l948 a quiet retired printer/junk dealer, Emerlich Juettner, living in Brooklyn, was quietly arrested by the FBI for whipping up a batch of ones, fives, and tens to pay his rent. Despite the fact that he occasionally misspelled “Washington,” it was years before anyone caught on.

Today, with over 60 percent of America’s hard currency located in foreign nations at a given time, literally everybody has a chance to imitate the almighty dollar with the most sophisticated equipment. Even easier, but no less lucrative, is providing passports, ID papers, product labels, pirated film and music labels, and sensitive documents.

These illegal counterfeiting profits can fund anything from a furtive competitor to a terrorist cell.

Our current security answer? Implanting holograms — little traces or designs that identify the item’s true source and are virtually impossible to emulate. The technology behind holograms is on display at the annual Mid-Atlantic Homeland Security & Defense Expo on Tuesday, April 25, at 2 p.m. at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab in Princeton. Cost: $40. Visit www.njtc.org. Sponsored by the New Jersey Technology Counsel, this expo features 35 special exhibitors, poster presentations, and a panel discussion of our region’s“Future Military/Homeland Security Opportunities.”

Panelists include Bill Evanina, an FBI agent assigned to Trenton; Timothy Teen, CEO of InSitech; and Ken Traub, CEO of American Bank Note Holographics.

Traub took the reins of American Bank Note Holographics in l999. Since then he has ridden America’s security explosion and guided this Robbinsville-based corporation to the top of the holographics heap. Grossing over $30 million in 2005, American Bank is the major supplier of security strips and holographics for Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and most of the country’s other major credit cards.

Evaluating our responses, Traub feels that America is neither too lax nor too paranoid about its security and potential invasions. “Consumers are not, for the most part, vigilant, and we must now recognize the new range of threats to IDs and so forth,” he says. “But I think generally institutions and individuals are becoming aware of what they need to do.”

Traub graduated from Emory University in l983 with a degree in psychology — a discipline he claims to use every day. After gaining his Harvard University MBA, he went to work in corporate America. He was vice-president of the giant Manhattan holding company Trans Resources before co-founding Voxware, a voice recognition and speech processing company with offices at 168 Franklin Corner Road.

As head of American Bank Note Holographics, Traub says that his firm’s goal is to raise the bar and make counterfeiting or tampering expensive beyond the resources of the bad guys. At the same time, he strives to keep his product so minimally invasive and so inexpensive that it is cheap enough for mass application.

Card subtleties. Don’t you just love those picturesque little butterflies on your credit card? They seem to appear and vanish. Pretty as they are, they may be art for security’s sake. The fluttering beauties are just one of the many other hologram features American Bank Note provides on its clients’ cards to drive counterfeiters wild.

An array of other holographic features can be placed on a card to make it truly original. Animation may be included to give an image the illusion of movement. Faces may appear in tri-dimensional modeling or be set to changing color schemes from various angles. Diffractive mercurial coloring can emblazon colors bolder than life, while a dot matrix pattern can hide certain images.

And, of course, if all this obvious display isn’t enough to ensure authentication, the company can move to nano imagery in which a microscopic logo can be specifically placed, making counterfeiter detection, let alone imitation, nearly impossible.

A security holostripe, about two to five millimeters wide, is typically placed on the back of the card. This stamped foil strip can also be configured with a host of individual features.

Paper and notes. The surest way to secure the authenticity of any paper is at the paper mill. Working with established paper maker Crane & Co., American Bank Note Holographic can embed a holographic thread as the pulp is turned into paper. Coded like DNA, it is virtually impossible to emulate. Holographic patches and stripes may be hot-foil pressed into the document to blend or even enhance letterheads and logos.

Probably the thriftiest way to make your mark on an ordinary paper document is to embed a standard hologram, which remains hidden until read with a handheld HoloScan reader. A quick click assures the viewer it is yours. Micro and even nano images may also be embedded on paper documents and bank note-style blends of cotton, linen and paper.

Product protection. We live in the age of the knockoff. Computer software, auto parts, and especially pharmaceuticals are subject to brand piracy from all over the globe. “For the pharmaceutical companies, this has become a real horror,” says Traub. “Under the guise of false labels, people are taking ‘medicines’ that at best provide no cure, and at worst may poison them.”

Obviously, with physical products, the holographic security approach must come up with new configurations. Currently the solutions are solid, and for mass marketers, like drug companies, becoming less expensive. Most common is the nonmetallic pressure sensitive label that identifies the manufacturer or vendor, and may even contain a hidden bar code. American Bank Note also offers a line of transparent covers and shrink sleeves, which serve the dual role of verification and tamper-discovery.

“There is great evidence of terrorists using counterfeiting to spread their destruction and to fund their activities,” says Traub. “But it goes deeper. For our society to function, we have to be able to trust our documents and trust our products.” At the same time, Americans will not be lured into a siege mentality, either by powers within or abroad. With technological advances like those of American Bank Note Holographics, security can be as it should: a noninvasive, relatively inexpensive aspect of our lives.

We don’t need fear, we need answers.

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