Criminals using 3D printing technology “present growing threat” to global shipping sector

While 3D printing has existed since the 1980s, advances in technology mean that the process now costs just hundreds of pounds rather than hundreds of thousands of pounds. Unfortunately, this puts it within reach of cargo thieves. Indeed, over the past few years, law enforcement and industry professionals have reported the use of technology to steal shipments of everything from food and drink through to electronic products.

By using 3D printing – also known as Additive Manufacturing – criminals are able to create counterfeit security devices within as little as ten minutes, open cargo seals, reproduce and replace seals to hide any signs of tampering and make it difficult to pinpoint the exact time or location of the theft.

Counterfeit cargo seals, security locks and security keys have all been created and used by criminals taking advantage of 3D printing technology.

“Technology that once required an understanding of computer-aided design and expensive and large equipment to fabricate items now costs in the range of hundreds of dollars and doesn’t require the same knowledge levels as before,” said Robert Dodge, senior vice-president at G4S Corporate Risk Services.

“Indeed, for a few hundred dollars, an individual can purchase a 3D scanner to produce a near-perfect replica, but criminals don’t even need to purchase their own 3D printers. They can easily send the specifications or pictures to any number of 3D printing companies or individuals around the world without any questions being asked.”

To help combat the growing threat of criminals using this technology, G4S has been reaching out to its supply chain security clients and G4S employees who provide supply chain security-related services, including security officers at gates and loading docks.

“US Customs and Border Protection has commented favourably on the fact that we’re sharing details of this emerging threat with the business community,” added Dodge.

Steps towards mitigating the risks

There are steps that clients can take to lessen the risk of being targeted. Simple things like changing the design, colour and markings on security seals make life difficult for criminals, but ultimately any measure can be replicated by a determined criminal. Even using metal is no guarantee that seals will be impossible to copy, as the more advanced 3D printers can employ metal alloys to fabricate products.

Ultimately, Dodge noted: “As almost all seals come from third parties, new seal designs would be available online within weeks, and could then be copied and distributed.”

Measures designed to keep cargo safe:

*Conduct a professional, third party security assessment of any company used for the shipment of goods

*Carry out thorough background checks on shipping company employees

*Analyse shipping methods to identify alternative routes and delivery times in order to avoid predictability

*Avoid placing company logos on company-owned cargo containers

*Place GPS devices in random shipments

*Install motion-activated, Internet-based surveillance cameras inside random containers in order to capture footage of doors being opened

*Alternate the colour of seals and periodically change seals to make it harder to produce replicas

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

Related Posts