Decode Your License




About: Working wireless-ly.


Using a cool little program I dug up on the web, and a scanner I was able to decode the barcodes on the back of my NY drivers license, and find out what information people get when they scan it. I'm pretty sure that just decoding the barcode is not illegal, but some of the other things I describe probably are, so let those be just proof of concept.

All the times my license (well technically my permit, but its all the same) appears, I mess up the barcodes a bit so (hopefully) no one can get my information. Personally I don't care, but theres probably some good reasons why I should not let it out so I'm just being safe.

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Step 1: Materials

Most people probably have this stuff:

1. Scanner
2. License/Permit from any state ( I think there are a few states ids that do not work, but most should)
3. Swipe Barcode Program
4. A Hex converter (more on this later)
5. Photoshop or similar program
6. Optional 1d barcode decoder

Step 2: Procedure

All of this is fairly straight forward.

1. Scan the back of your license / permit using a medium - high resolution. The resolution should be set so that the 2d barcode is about 2000 pixels long.
2. Open up the image in Photoshop and cut out the 2d barcode. The 2d barcode is the one on the bottom in the picture. Most states use the PDF-417 (Portable Data File, with 17 modules each containing 4 bars and spaces, thus 417). Edit the barcode so that it is exactly 2000 or less pixels long because that is the maximum the program will allow, and save it.
3. Open swipe toolkit pdf417 barcode reader, available to download in the last step, and load your barcode into it. Click decode image, and a window with all your information should pop up. The picture shows the window that I got ( I removed thinks I should probably care about). As you can see, you can view the information processed, in raw bytes, or in hex. An interesting thing to note is if your card contains your social security number, some states put it on and some states don't.

Step 3: Legality Becomes Iffy Here

Cyansoft makes a pdf 417 barcode encoder, which you can use to modify the barcode.

If you select raw bytes(you can also select hex if you want to use a hex editor to edit the information) on how the decoded information is shown in the pdf 417 reader, examine it and you should be able to pick out your information such as d.o.b, name, license number, etc. You can edit that information, copy the selection into cyansoft's barcode encoder, and tweak it to look like the original barcode. Some of the settings you may need to change are the Error correction level, the number of columns and rows, and the bar width. The overall purpose of tweaking the barcode is to get it to look and read the same before, just with the modified data.

To test out the modded barcode, export it as an image and run it through the decoder again, if it works great, if not just keep tweaking the settings in the encoder until it looks exactly like the original. You now have your modded barcode, but what should you do with it?

Step 4: From This Point on Everythings Definitely Illegal

Ive never tried these, so don't blame me if you screw up and ruin your license.

If you want to use the fake barcode you just make on your license, there are many possible ways to transfer it. The easiest is probably to erase the old barcode with some acetone and paper towels, and when your sure its completely erased, carefully print directly onto the license. The only problem with this method is that you would need a high density printer (thermal transfer or laser), and would have to be extremely careful that it printed in the right spot nice and cleanly.

Another method could be to clean off the old barcode with acetone, and then print out the new one on a transparency and affix it to your license. The problem with this method are that it would be easy to tell its fake, unless done really carefully.

Remember if you are changing a piece of information that is on the front you have to change it on the license too. It doesn't matter if the id scans 21, if it says 18 on the front they are not going to accept it.

(Note: Most licenses also have a 1d barcode on the back too. It contains much less information then the 2d barcode. To edit it you will need to find out what specific type of barcode it is, there are many sites online with pictures of different barcodes that can help you. Then download a decoder for that type, and decipher the information they give you, see if it matches up with your license number, dob, etc. Then change it and re encode it using a program for that type of barcode.)

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    91 Discussions


    1 year ago

    This result seems good.


    2 years ago

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    3 years ago

    I know this is an old post, but all the info I've read in the comments is wrong.....

    License barcodes DO NOT contain pictures, or anything but the data any barcode scanner reads. Its encoded with certain bytes of data and a specific header to make it read properly in a scanner. Search the net for "aamva license standards" for all the info you need. Its best to find a barcode creator which can edit the hex values and make sure you encode it exactly to the aamva specifications. Also the x and y dim, and error correction need to be correct for any store/bar scanner to read properly.


    8 years ago on Step 4

    Target store clerks will ask you for your driver's license when making certain purchases, such as games rated "M", but then they will scan it without warning you that they intended to do so. Show me where it says it's illegal to prepare a fake ID for the express purpose of preventing theft of your identity by Target. It's only a matter of time before they get broken into like Sony recently was.

    4 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    Damn dude did you call it or what?


    Reply 6 years ago on Step 4

    The computer discards all the information except for the d.o.b. on age restricted materials. It is a violation of federal law to collect any information (such as your address, for things such as a mailing list) other than your date of birth from your license. Considering Target is asking to see your ID to prevent being charged with selling an age restricted item to a minor (and thereby breaking the law), it would be silly to break the law while enforcing it. Since the scanner can also read the PDF417 barcodes on DoD CACs, I assure you that the government would have looked into it by now.

    The exception to this rule (which is allowed by U.S. federal law) is when you open a Target Visa. The information verifies your line of credit and is easier than typing a name and address on the already difficult to use signature pad.

    You should also consider that any time you swipe a card, sign a pad, enter a PIN, or pay with a cheque, you're trusting that very same machine to handle your financial data.... When you pay with cash, you're also trusting that the cash point you withdrew it from didn't have a skimmer installed.

    Since American POS systems have yet to adapt Chip and PIN card readers completely, scanning your ID for an age-restricted product doesn't reveal any more personal information that swiping a credit card doesn't already.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Well,actually, I'm fairly certain there is no law requiring you to be of a certain age before you can purchase "R" rated movies and "M" rated games.

    Think about it, getting your movie "Content Rated" by the MPAA, by law,is completely optional. However to be displayed in a theater, it must be. However theres also not a law that says minors can not go to an "R" rated movie, however the theaters have an agreement with the production companies that they won't let unaccompanied minors in.

    It's really all up to store policy.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Just for kicks, I scanned my Maine license and ran it through pdf417decode 2.0 (a Linux package from SourceForge). There's pretty clearly some binary data in the last field, but I don't know the format and there's no recognizable header. Any ideas how to decode it? I think it's a copy of the picture on the license. Also, the Swipe decoder doesn't seem to recognize the Maine fields, as it doesn't show anything in the processed data view.

    2 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    SolidSilver, there's not enough space in the PDF417 code to encode the picture, nor is there need to do so. It just contains text information, mostly what's human-readable on the front and back of the license. The purpose of PDF417 codes on licenses is to make it faster and safer for traffic officers to get the information; they can do it quickly with a handheld barcode scanner, instead of having to laboriously type it in on the laptop computer with which many police cruisers are now equipped. By not being distracted with typing, officers can keep an eye on traffic and potential bad guys in the vehicle they've stopped. Once they have the text data from the PDF417 code, it can be linked to a government database via radio and a medium resolution picture of the license holder can be transmitted to the cruiser's laptop computer within a few seconds. Obviously, if the image on the card doesn't match the image on the screen, the officer will know he's dealing with a forgery and a potentially dangerous situation.

    I suspect the PDF417 code contains exactly the same data as the magnetic stripe, if the license is so equipped. My state driver license has both.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    pcooper2, actually, their could be a picture in the bar code. The PDF417 can have photographs, fingerprints, signatures, text, numbers or graphics.

    "PDF417 barcodes are special in that they can hold upwards of 1.1 kilobytes of machine-readable data, making them much more powerful than other 2D barcodes. This storage space has been utilized in cases which require the storage of photographs, fingerprints, signatures, text, numbers or graphics."


    Dean AAron

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Here's an comprehensive barcode professional website.
    It provides barcode solutions for .NET, Java, and Smartphones. Easy and efficient to use, so try them at following web sites. I do believe they are helpful to solve problems.

    lil parka

    8 years ago on Introduction

    can someone help me im not that advance as all you seem i would like to know if i decode my az lisence and change some info would it still scan and be on the dmv database? i need help pleaase.

    4 replies
    the1manlil parka

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    You can edit the code to change your information . I would be happy to help you with this.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I also need help changing the barcode on my license. Can you help?

    Dean AAronmccrackn

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Try these sites to change the information in your 2D barcode. Just input your information, then generate a barcode and save the image.

    Also, you can use this barcode reader to check your encoded information.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I have the same problem, I need to figure out how to change the decoded information so that it still comes out right when scanned. Please help


    12 years ago

    anybody know where to find a 1d/Code 39 barcode decoder?