Fake 3D printed security seals are helping thieves steal cargo, warns G4S

For some time now, 3D printing has been under scrutiny for the ways in which it can be used to compromise security. There was a great public outcry in September 2015 when it was revealed that 3D printed TSA Master Luggage Keys had been created using leaked photos of an original key.

According to London-based security firm G4S, incidents have been reported of cargo thieves using 3D printed cargo seals and padlocks to obscure the signs of tampering caused during thefts. By creating perfect replicas of certain well-known cable seals such as the ISO 17712, these thieves are able to quickly replace a broken seal with a 3D printed replacement, giving security personnel no reason to identify the cargo as having been tampered with. When the theft is eventually discovered, there is little evidence to suggest when and where it took place.

One way to combat is to install motion-activated cameras on vehicles, or to place GPS devices in cargo so that their location can be traced if stolen. Another option would be to assign random colors to ISO 17712 seals. This solution, however, could possibly be countered by thieves printing replicas in a range of colors. G4S also recommends that employees be better trained to identify and remove counterfeit security seals.

Last year, logistics organization SpedLogSwiss reported that fake 3D printed seals had been used to facilitate the theft of a pharmaceutical shipment, and that the 3D printing process could have been completed in as little as 10 minutes.