Security labels used to have an advantage over other counterfeit protection, but you should know that fraudsters have finally caught up to the technology. Now, it’s more critical than ever to develop a new approach to protect your brand.


Here’s why security labels aren’t as effective as they once were at protecting physical products and how AlpVision’s solutions can provide superior safeguards.


What are security labels?

Security labels come in many different forms, and that’s the problem when it comes to anti-counterfeiting protections. In their most basic form, security labels are merely hard-to-remove stickers that can show evidence of tampering or that can identify an authentic item. They’re helpful when combined with bar codes and software for tracking, and they’re a standard security feature in several global industries like consumer electronics and pharmaceuticals.


But the issue at hand is that the fraudsters and criminals who manufacture or distribute counterfeit products have also learned how to fake or circumvent these types of physical safeguards using simple ingredients. Nevertheless, it’s worth the trouble to review what the goals of security labels actually are before we move on to explain why they will no longer suffice moving forward.


Goals of security labels

The goals of security labels are relatively simple at a glance, but there’s plenty of nuance to selecting which types are most vital. Some of the more widespread use cases include:

  • End-user enabled product authentication
  • Tamper proofing
  • Tax collection
  • Tracking
  • Tracing


The idea is that brands will stay strong and keep building loyalty when consumers can trust that they’re buying a genuine product, so the fundamental goal is end-user authentication, whoever it may be. Still, along with authentication, tamper-proofing is another crucial benefit of using security labels on physical products.


Security labels can also serve as a means for tax collection and verification for imports and exports, providing a single tracking and tracing system. Indeed, those are the main goals, and these essential benefits explain why security labels are now standard protections worldwide.


Why are security labels so popular today?

While there’s no single answer to this question, security labels have become popular because they’re easy to apply and simple to use despite the obvious drawbacks, costs, and flaws that come along with them. Labels essentially become a single source for quality control, which requires far less supplier training on anti-counterfeiting measures. A supplier simply scans the label’s barcode or QR code to confirm that the item is authentic and moves along.


Another benefit of securing products this way is that brand owners can apply labels themselves to verify that protections are in place. Ideally, you should be able to recognize protected products on sight, especially if the label is the tamper-proof variety. That’s one reason bar-coded security labels work well for excise stamps because manually checking each item individually isn’t reasonable. However, anti-theft and anti-counterfeiting labels make it possible to verify large quantities of goods and track everything digitally too.


Types of security labels and sophistication

Furthermore, security labels come in varying degrees of sophistication, and not all of them are as effective as you’d think. For instance, destructible vinyl security labels only last for up to two years when stored at the proper temperature. Physically removing these labels is tedious, but it isn’t impossible because counterfeiters have every incentive they need to take their time to fake a security label or even come-up with completely invented label designs


So, the obvious way to deter this type of fraud is to use coded labels during quality control before supplies or fabricated products ship out of the facility. The protections may not be perfect, but the truth is that they’re stronger when you add layers like holographic fingerprints to the labels as well. Either way, the concept is that multiple layers of security will both be hard to circumvent and fake. Yet, the reality is more complex than that because you still have to account for the inherent problems with physical security labels.


Security label problems

Along those lines, relying on security labels comes with several caveats that don’t get the attention they deserve since counterfeiters have already found ways to get around them. For starters, any visible identifier gives the false sense of security – or legitimacy – and a determined criminal can easily make copies by the thousands with the right equipment. The technology used to imprint security labels is now widely available, so the exclusivity factor is long gone.


While they’re not exactly cheap, the machines and software used to make these labels aren’t secret, and anyone with the proper knowledge can exploit them in creative ways. For example, why place a fake security label on a product before shipping when you can smuggle the labels themselves first and then apply them afterward? It’s really not that sophisticated of a scam once you can make reasonable facsimiles of security labels.


Despite its widespread deployment, this type of technology is also more expensive to implement than you’d think. If you choose the wrong software, you may inadvertently become dependent and locked into a specific supplier that uses proprietary systems. Not only that, but labels are so unsightly that they can detract from product imagery and colorful branding.


The situation gets even more complex – and expensive to implement – when you try to add layers of security, such as holograms or something more like holographic fingerprints. Undoubtedly, these protections look the part; however, they depend on light, which may or may not be sufficient at the time of verification.


The result is that any end-user, whether a consumer or a manufacturer, won’t be able to tell the difference between genuine labels and fake labels. Labels are even more suspect when they are damaged, or the label is accidentally removed or destroyed during shipping, for instance. But the good news is that alternatives exist, and they’re becoming more popular too.


Is there a better alternative to standard, minimally effective security labels?

Ideally, a label should be hard to forge, but few of them actually are. More to the point from a business perspective, these systems are always expensive when considering the actual value of the protection. It’s certainly possible to secure physical products if you invest a significant amount in anti-counterfeit security, but not many companies have that type of funding on hand.


That said, the next question is this: what’s the alternative to such a widely deployed safeguard, however ineffective it may be? The answer is to implement our Cryptoglyph – Packaging and Label Protection technology instead, and here’s a quick look at how the solution works.


Introducing Cryptoglyph – Packaging and Label Protection

Cryptoglyph, our digital anti-counterfeiting technology, excels at packaging and labeling protection when standard security labels won’t suffice. The solution works by imprinting microscopic holes in parts of the packaging that are extremely hard to replicate at the time of this writing. Counterfeiters may eventually catch up to our technology, but not any time soon because our system can scale up safeguards to stay one step ahead of criminals.


Rather than marking products in obvious areas of the packaging, we apply Cryptoglyph’s features on solid colors as well as other places that are harder to fake. The fact remains that tamper-proof labels aren’t as secure anymore, and counterfeiters have learned how to fake them well. In other words, security labels aren’t nearly as safe as they once were and certainly not as robust as they need to be moving forward.

Are you ready to see how our solutions can improve your counterfeit protection?


Download our latest whitepaper – Select Your Technology

to determine which of our software would work best for your company’s unique security and anti-counterfeiting needs.


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