Just over a week ago, the Reserve Bank of Australia released the all new $50 note. The $50 is the most highly circulated bank note in this country as it's used to fill ATMs. And highly circulated notes have traditionally been attractive to counterfeiters as they can pass fakes more easily as there are so many notes, at different stages of wear in circulation. But the new "pineapple" is different to its predecessor. And the makers of some of its security features, Leonhard Kurz Australia, say it's almost impossible to copy.
Stephen Pratt is the Managing Director for Australia & New Zealand at Leonhard Kurz Australia. His company has been working with the RBA on the new banknotes and ensuring that they are as hard as possible to counterfeit.
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is in the process of redesigning the country's banknotes with an emphasis on new security features. Following in the footsteps of the $5 and $10 notes, we now have a new $50 version - and we're beginning to come around to the updates.
"The Kinegram is key and the most visible security feature," he said.
Pratt said that while any security feature could be copied, the Optical Variable Device foil in the new $50 bill is so obvious that everyone will know what they look like so passing a fake will be difficult.
"The are very difficult, almost impossible, to imitate in their complete form," he said.
The Kinegram technology is used in 110 countries, including the Euro, around the world and they've been deploying the technology since the 1980s.
The Kinegram is an image that is embossed onto foil that is embedded in the banknote. When the note is moved, you see colour changes and movement in the image. And while this sounds like the kind of holographic image found on trading cards and kids' toys, it is a far more sophisticated device that is very difficult to reproduce.
"In the case of the $50, there's a black swan and it appears to fly when you move the note. if you look at the house from side to side, the number of the house reverses. You have fine line movement and cloud that happens. That's what makes it easy to recognise and hard to copy," said Pratt.
The technology to reproduce the Kinegram is not easily available. Unlike the holograms on driver's licenses, which Pratt said can be produced with a printer costing a few hundred dollars, the gear used to make the Kinegram is proprietary, highly specialised and not easily available. Then applying the Kinegram onto a specialised substrate requires highly specialised knowledge of adhesives and other technical skills.
So, like any effective security strategy, it's not any one thing that makes it secure, but a combination of tools and techniques.
The Kinegram technology that Leonhard Kurz Australia has used is called the 0.0 technology. This means there is no tolerance for flaws in the design. For example, lines drawn on the substrate are not broken by application of the Kinegram when viewed under a microscope.
In the movie Catch me if you can, the central character, Frank Abagnale Jr (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) starts by making fake cheques but eventually buys a machine that makes real cheques that are indistinguishable from fakes. Pratt says that the complexity and continual improvement of the manufacturing processes that his company is engaged with means such an act would be very hard, perhaps impossible, for a criminal to undertake.