Security Seals

Security seals are plastic or metal seals that are used to secure a container, often rail and shipping freight containers, against intrusion. Security seals are tamper evident, meaning that they are specifically designed to be apparent if someone has broken in. Part of the tamper evident nature of security seals is that they are one-use only: security seals must be cut to be removed, and are typically numbered so that they can’t be cut and then replaced without it being evident.

Security Seal Suppliers

  • SupplyPlaza provides a wide variety of both metal and plastic security seals, including bolt seals, cable seals, padlock seals, and more. SupplyPlaza offers security seals for sale online both in small quantities for individual use or small businesses, as well as large quantities for larger businesses. SupplyPlaza’s unique business model allows even smaller quantity orders to be purchased for competitive prices. SupplyPlaza now also offers metal truck door seals and beaded cable ties!

Tamper Evidence of Security Seals

Security seals serve two purposes: to secure a container from intrusion similar to a standard lock, and to provide evidence of attempts at tampering.

The tamper evident nature of security seals sets them apart from standard locks. While a lock can be picked, or even cut off and replaced, leaving no evidence that the contents of a container have been tampered with or stolen, a security seal provides evidence of attempts at intrusion. Security seals accomplish this tamper evidence in three primary ways:

  • One Use: Security seals are one-use only. While locking a security seal is easy and requires only finger pressure, the security seal can only be removed by cutting it away. For smaller and less valuable packages such as domestic shipping totes and medical records, a beaded plastic security seal is often preferred over stronger metal security seals because the lightweight plastic security seal is easier to remove — requiring only scissors or wire cutters, rather than heavy-duty bolt cutters. These smaller security seals are most commonly used when the primary purpose of the seal is as a deterrence and to provide evidence of tampering, rather than as an actual security lock.
  • Numbering: Security seals are commonly numbered with unique, sequential numbering. The unique numbering means that even if a security seal is cut away and replaced with the identical brand and size of security seal, the tampering will still be evident, since the seal will no longer have the same serial number. The serial number of a security seal is typically printed on a shipping manifest, or transferred electronically with shipping records, so that it can be confirmed when the container is received as proof against tampering.
  • Plastic coating: For bolt seals specifically a plastic coating is used over the metal security seal. This plastic is designed to provide evidence of attempts to use heat to deform the metal bolt to gain access. Any head will cause the plastic coating to discolor and eventually to melt.

Varieties of Security Seals

Security seals come in a wide variety of styles and strengths, each specific to the application. The primary differences between security seals is how difficult it is to cut through them (how secure they are) and what kind of latch they are capable of securing. For the most secure applications metal security seals are used, as these are the most resistant to intrusion; however, a stronger security seal is not always desirable. Making the seal difficult to remove can be a negative in instances where the receiver of a container isn’t likely to have specialized cutting equipment on hand.

Some of the more common types of security seals include:

  • Bolt seals – typically used to secure shipping container doors or the doors of semi-trailers. These security seals are the most difficult to cut through, requiring bolt cutters to remove, and are a requirement for international shipments coming into the US.
  • Cable seals – another type of metal seal, the advantage of cable seals is that the cable loops around back into itself to be secured. This means that cable seals are capable of securing a wider variety of latch types than a bolt seal. Cable or bolt cutters are required to remove cable seals.
  • Padlock seals – typically made of plastic, padlock seals look just like a standard metal padlock. Like all security seals, there is no way to open the padlock seal without cutting it apart.
  • Plastic seals – there are a wide variety of plastic security seals, the most common of which is probably the beaded plastic security seal. Plastic security seals are desirable for their low cost, and the fact that they can often be cut open with only scissors, rather than requiring bolt cutters. Lightweight plastic security seals are used in lower-security shipments where tamper evidence is still desired.
  • Truck door seals – security seals specifically made for sealing the doors of semi trailers. Truck door seals are similar in concept to cable seals, but rather than using braided cable, truck door seals use a flat strip of metal that loops around to secure to itself. Truck door seals can be made of metal or plastic.
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