The great advantage of the colorful JAB code (JAB = Just Another Barcode) is that it can store much more data in the same area than a black and white barcode. The colorful badges can be used, for example, to secure job references, training certificates, wills or even proof of authenticity for products. The code is not subject to licensing and is open source. It can already be used today. If you want to test it, you can do it here, the reader is available under the name “JAB Code” in the AppStores.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology (SIT) wants the code to become an ISO standard by 2022. This should then provide uniform rules for data formats and for practical use worldwide. According to Fraunhofer, device manufacturers and user companies have planning security at the latest – an important prerequisite for successful dissemination in industry.
Today, black and white barcodes can still be found on packaging, shipping labels of packages, the back of books and more. They contain only a small amount of data. Therefore, references to websites that contain more information about the respective product often have to be stored. With the JAB code, which uses colors as a third dimension, that should change. It can store much more information in the same area. JAB codes use the colors cyan, yellow, magenta, black and mixtures of these basic colors. In addition, it can take not only quadrilaterals, but many variable shapes, which significantly extends the design options.
The experts at Fraunhofer SIT had developed the code with the high data density so that documents can also be shown as genuine offline. With a JAB code, the authenticity of documents can be checked and the security against forgery increased. For this purpose, the content of a document is digitally signed and encrypted so that it can no longer be changed without being noticed. The signed content and signature are shown in a JAB code. The JAB code is then printed on the associated document using a commercially available color printer.
Every authorized person can now scan the JAB code with their smartphone and thus check the authenticity of the document: First, the smartphone reads and verifies the digital signature. If this process was successful, the document content is displayed on the examiner’s smartphone so that he can compare the paper with the displayed content. If he or she discovers differences, this paper is fake.
The JAB code should be useful whenever documents have to be exchanged between authorities and companies or citizens, but there is no common database for checking. In the lockdown phase during the corona crisis, for example, companies in border regions issued their employees with a pass that was intended to testify that this person works in a particular company and had to regularly cross the border to do so. However, this pass is nothing more than a paper with a company stamp. Border officials cannot easily check its authenticity. With the help of digital signatures and a JAB code, an inspection could now be made easier, as well as being forgery-proof and compliant with data protection.
Another example is medical prescriptions. They can be faked if criminals want to get expensive medication. Duplicate submissions are also a problem. Misuse could be prevented with a JAB code, since the colorful code stores all important information directly on the recipe. When issuing the prescription, the doctor extracts certain unique properties of the prescription paper, such as structure or fibers, which are like a kind of fingerprint of the paper. This happens with a smartphone camera within seconds. The doctor digitally signs the prescription with the paper fingerprint and the content of the prescription – i.e. information about which medications are being prescribed. A JAB code is created from the signed data together with the doctor’s digital signature and printed on the prescription. In the pharmacy, pharmacists first scan the digital signature using a smartphone. Once the signature has been verified and the paper properties in the JAB code and the existing prescription match, the pharmacy employees know that it is an original prescription.
The JAB code was created by the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) at Fraunhofer SI. The code is currently on its way to the ISO 23634 standard and is expected to be available as a standard early next year. The source code can be found on GitHub under the license LGPL v2.1 (free use for all conceivable purposes by naming the Fraunhofer SIT as developer). (hv)