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Friday, April 19, 2024

Security Seals 101

Security seals are used across the world for a wide variety of applications. This widespread use is due to several important benefits: they act as a deterrent to tampering or unauthorised access, are tamper resistant and provide proof if tampering does occur.

These benefits are valued in many different industries for a range of purposes, meaning security seals need to be developed to meet the specific criteria and requirements of these industries. These criteria are often defined by international standards, such as C-TPAT (Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism) and ISOs, but can also be partially or wholly specified based on the application or situation they are being used in.

Using a uniquely designed product that meets your requirements, international standards and adds real value in the supply chain is only a few cents per seal more expensive than a cheap, poorly-designed seal. This means that it pays to use good quality, well-designed products from a trusted manufacturer who will partner with you all the way.

The Right Seal for You

Choosing the right seal for your application is a very important function and the decision should be made in consultation with your security partner, in most cases this should be your security seal supplier.

One of the best decisions you will ever make is to work with a reputable security seal supplier. Meaning a supplier that designs, manufactures, sells, supports and guarantees their own seals. Your security seal supplier should be an expert in their field and understand all of your needs. They should be a reputable, industry recognised security seal supplier that can ensure a secure supply chain in line with all International Standards (ISO) and requirements.

Mega Fortris’ continued growth and success is because our entire product development process is focused on designing the best security seals with you, the end user, in mind. Our products offer real value to you by providing the highest level of tamper detection while delivering local service with a global reach.

Security Seals 101



The quantity of security seal options is vast and can become confusing. That is why we have assembled this glossary of terms to help you when it comes time to select a security seal and all the options and decisions that come with that:

Bar Coding

  • Laser Print marking engraves or marks the security seal. This type of printing produces high-quality and precise text, barcodes and graphics that have high readability and are easy to scan. Laser marking is permanent and is the ideal choice for markings on security seals.
  • Thermal print technology melts a coating of ribbon onto the security seal gluing it in place. Thermal printing is not permanent and can be scratched off or damaged when exposed to certain conditions. Available for text, numbers, barcodes and simple graphics such as logos.

Barrier Seal - a metal seal combining tamper evident properties with a strong physical barrier, usually requiring bolt cutters to remove.

Bolt Seal

- generally manufactured from metal and plastic. Bolt seals are used by hand pushing the seal body and head together, locking them so they can only be opened with bolt cutters. They offer a durable, resilient and convenient high “H” security seal for transportation containers.

Cable Seal

- come in variable lengths, and are only limited in size by the length of cable used. Once locked they cannot be retracted due to the internal locking mechanism. Most cable seals are classified as security (“S”) or high security (“H”) level as per ISO17712. See also Barrier Seal.

Cash Bag - a small bag made from fabric (multi-use or reusable) or plastic (single or one-time use) used for the transfer of documents, small amounts of cash, notes and cheques. These bags usually have a tamper evident lock fitted to them or self-adhesive tamper evident tape closure.

Container Seal

- a thick bolt seal to secure shipping containers, intermodal containers, trucks and rail cars. Typically require manual or automated bolt cutters to remove.

C-TPAT - US Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, led by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as a voluntary supply chain security program. Its focus is to improve private companies’ supply chains against the threat of terrorism. C-TPAT compliant security ties indicate they are compliant with international shipping security standards.

Fixed Length Seal - also known as a Ring Seal. These (usually plastic) seals cannot be pulled tighter once the locking mechanism is secured. Easily and quickly removed by hand or using a small cutting tool.

High “H” Security Seal

- manufactured using materials designed to delay intrusion, such as metal, metal cables and wire. High Security Seals must be designed and tested to conform to world customs and ISO (International Standards Organisation) security seal standards. Once tested and approved, these seals feature the initial ‘H’ on the cap and/or body.

Indicative Seal - usually a plastic seal that easily displays visual evidence of any attempted tampering. These seals are removed with minimal force.

ISO - International Standards Organisation. Responsible for setting international standards including the classification of mechanical seals that are acceptable for securing freight containers in international commerce.

ISO 17712:2013 - Effective May 15, 2014 compliance with the tamper-evident aspects of the new standard requires documentation, such as a certifying report or letter from auditors accredited in accordance with ISO17020. ISO17020 applies to accreditation for ISO9001 quality inspections. The 2013 edition requires the certification of compliance only for High Security (“H”) barrier seals; certification is voluntary for Indicative (“I”) and Security (“S”) seals.

Clause 5 Mechanical Strength:

You can only consider a seal as compliant with ISO17712:2013 if the manufacturer or distributor can produce upon request:

  • A current Certificate of Conformance for Freight Container Mechanical Seal Testing from an ISO 17025 accredited independent testing laboratory with ISO 17025 in its scope of accreditation. For High Security “H” seals, the certificate or letter should indicate only classification ratings of “High Security” and the seal should be marked with an “H.” For bolt seals, the certificate or letter must also show “Pass” for the minimum diameter test.

Clause 6 Tamper Evidence Compliance:

Manufacturers that offer 17712-compliant seals must establish tamper-mitigation procedures for the design and manufacturing process. Auditable processes must assure explicit attention is given to tamper issues in design and manufacturing.

Metal Seal - there are several basic designs of metal seals: bolt seals, cable seals and bar seals. Metal seals offer higher security due to their tensile strength and that they require heavy tools, like bolt cutters, for removal. See also Bolt Seal, Cable Seal, Container Seal, High Security Seal and Barrier Seal.

Meter Seal - single use and broken when removed. Usually manufactured in transparent polycarbonate making the locking mechanism visible, clearly identifying when it has been tampered with. Meter seals can stand up to sunlight, extreme weather exposure and a wide range of temperatures. Typically used on electric, gas or water meters as well as calibrators.

Padlock Seal - a plastic seal shaped like a standard padlock, this can be placed over the locking ring. They do not need keys to open, instead they break off at their built-in break point, either by hand or with cutters.

Plastic Seal

- variable length seals (also known as ‘Pull Tight Seals’ or ‘Ring Seals’) appropriate for many applications. Pull Tight Seals are adjustable in length, similar to a cable tie, but provide a greater security level. They feature unique numbering and can be barcoded and logo printed for added security. See also Pull Tight Seal and Fixed Length Seal.

Pull Tight Seal - a cost effective and versatile plastic pull-through seal with low breaking strength for easy removal. These come in many lengths, perfect for securing multiple items or items of variable sizes. Some pull tight seals feature a convenient tear-off which eliminates the need for a cutting tool for removal. See also Plastic Seal.

Security Bag Multi-Use/Reusable

- a security bag with a locking chamber and a numbered security seal, in combination these deter and provide proof of unauthorised entry or tampering. These bags are strong and user friendly. Typically used for cash, valuables, confidential and sensitive documents.

Security Bag Single Use/One Time Use

- a low cost, single use plastic bag or envelope that is easily and securely sealed with the self-adhesive tape closure. These bags show clear signs of tampering when security is breached. Typically used for cash, valuables, forensic evidence, medications, confidential or sensitive documents.

Security Labels - adhesive stickers allowing you to identify when unauthorised interference has occurred. Labels can be Non-Transfer (NT) or Partial-Transfer (PT), indicating whether a residue is left (or not) on the surface of the sealed item. Used for pharmaceutical products, IT equipment, meter rooms, forensic areas, catering trolleys, food cartons, envelopes containing sensitive or confidential documents.

Security Seals

- plastic or metal devices designed to offer security and tamper evidence for whatever they are protecting. Making it easier to detect accidental or deliberate instances of theft or contamination


Security Tape - a continuous roll of tape with a high bond-strength adhesive in combination with a backing designed to fracture or delaminate to immediately show any kind of tamper attempt. This security feature shows a VOID/OPEN message if tampered with by peeling, cutting, heat or Freon (cold) attack. Used for packaging applications such as shrink-wrapped pallets, cartons for freight, storage and archive boxes.

Tamper Evident

- a technology, procedure or product that clearly indicates when unauthorised access to a protected item has been attempted.