What are Security Labels? – A Complete Explanation

What are Security Labels?

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Security labels are specialised adhesive tags that protect products and information from tampering, counterfeiting, and unauthorised access. These labels help identify, authenticate, and secure products or information from unauthorised access. By integrating security labels, organisations can significantly mitigate the risks associated with unauthorised access and manipulation, ensuring the protection of their products. 

Throughout this article, we will delve into the intricacies of security labels, examining their various types, mechanisms of operation, distinctive features, and advantages. Additionally, we will provide insightful guidance on selecting the appropriate security labels to meet specific security needs, equipping you with the knowledge to enhance the security posture of your products. 

For an understanding of labelling in general, explore our comprehensive article, What is Labelling? Additionally, for insights into two prevalent labelling strategies, delve into our detailed articles on What is White Labelling? and What is Private Labelling?

Types of Security Labels

Four Types of Security Labels

Security labels come in various forms, each designed to meet specific security needs. They can be broadly categorised into the following types:

Total Transfer Labels

A total transfer label is a special sticker that adheres firmly to products and leaves behind a noticeable mark when someone attempts to peel it off. This mark, often the word “VOID” or a similar alert, clearly indicates that the item has been tampered with. Not only does the sticker itself display this message, but it also transfers the message to the product, making it impossible to reuse the sticker and conceal the tampering. 

Such labels are ideal for products that must remain sealed until they reach the end consumer. They serve as an effective deterrent against tampering and unauthorised opening, ensuring the integrity of the product from the point of manufacture to the hands of the consumer.

Non-Transfer Labels

Non-transfer labels are sophisticated security stickers designed to protect items without leaving any residue or marking on the product. When someone attempts to remove the label, no sticky message or adhesive is left behind on the item. 

However, the label itself changes to display a “VOID” message or a similar tamper-evident indicator, clearly showing that tampering has occurred. This unique feature makes non-transfer labels ideal for products where cleanliness and aesthetic integrity are paramount.

Non-transfer labels have a sub-variety called dual-colour total transfer labels. Dual-colour total transfer labels reveal a message in two different colours. This dual-colour aspect enhances visibility and makes the tamper evidence more noticeable.

Non-transfer labels offer a discreet yet effective way to maintain the security of a product. They allow businesses and consumers to easily identify if an item has been opened or tampered with, all while preserving the item’s pristine condition. This balance between security and cleanliness is why non-transfer labels are preferred in industries where product presentation is key. 

For further insights, we encourage you to read our article What are Tamper Proof Labels? 

Destructible Labels

Destructible labels, also known as “fragile labels” or “eggshell labels”, are crafted from a material intentionally designed to be brittle and easily damaged. This material tears or shreds when someone tries to remove it and is nearly impossible to peel off in one piece. 

This feature makes them an excellent choice for preventing theft or tampering, as it’s immediately apparent when someone has attempted to interfere with the label. These labels safeguard assets, proprietary equipment, or sensitive products where tampering must be instantly recognisable. 

Common applications include labelling on electronic devices, pharmaceutical products, or high-value items requiring high security. When someone tries to peel off a destructible label, its fragmentation acts as a visual alert, signalling that the item’s integrity has been compromised.

Authentication Labels

Authentication labels are a critical component against counterfeiting, serving as a definitive mark of a product’s genuineness. These labels are embedded with features that are difficult, if not impossible, for counterfeiters to replicate, ensuring that consumers and retailers can easily distinguish authentic products from fake ones.

The technology behind authentication labels can vary widely, incorporating elements such as holograms, QR codes, unique serial numbers, and even advanced Optically Variable Devices (OVDs). 

Holograms, for example, offer a visual cue that changes appearance when viewed from different angles. At the same time, QR codes can be scanned to verify a product’s authenticity directly through a manufacturer’s database. 

Serial numbers provide a unique identifier for each product, making it possible to track its journey from production to sale. OVDs employ a combination of micro printing, colour-shifting inks, and intricate designs that are exceptionally challenging to duplicate accurately.

Authentication labels are used widely across pharmaceuticals, luxury goods, electronics, and automotive parts industries to protect their products. By applying authentication labels, manufacturers send a clear message of commitment to quality and consumer safety while safeguarding their brand’s integrity and trustworthiness in the marketplace.

How do Security Labels Work?

While the functionality of security labels varies depending on their design and the technology they incorporate, the fundamental principles that underlie the working of all security labels are the same. 

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of the basic, common working mechanism of security labels:

  1. Application: The security label is applied to the product or packaging. This step involves choosing the right type of label that suits the surface material and environmental conditions the product will be exposed to.
  2. Activation: Activation is a crucial step for certain types of security labels, especially those involving electronic tracking or digital verification (like RFID or QR codes). This involves programming the label with specific information or linking it to a database for tracking and authentication purposes.
  3. Detection: When an attempt is made to access the product or information, the security label detects this interaction. This detection is a physical change in the label’s appearance for tamper-evident labels. 
  4. Response: Upon detection of tampering or unauthorised access, the label responds according to its design. Tamper-evident labels might leave a “VOID” message or show visible signs of damage. 

Benefits of Using Security Labels

List of eight advantages of using security labels

Security labels offer several key advantages, from safeguarding against tampering to ensuring compliance with laws and regulations. Below are some advantages of security labels. 

Protection Against Tampering

Security labels are designed to indicate unauthorised access or alterations, featuring mechanisms that visibly damage the label or leave a residue upon tampering. This feature is indispensable for ensuring the integrity of products in industries where safety and authenticity are critical, such as pharmaceuticals and food.

Authenticity Verification

Security labels are a hallmark of genuineness, crucial for distinguishing authentic products from counterfeit ones. By incorporating features like holograms and unique serial numbers, security labels provide a reliable method for verifying product authenticity, and safeguarding brand reputation and consumer trust.

Theft Deterrence

Security labels make items less attractive targets for theft by complicating the resale process. The visible presence of these labels signals enhanced protection, significantly reducing the risk of theft in retail environments and during transportation.

Warranty Protection

Security labels play a pivotal role in maintaining the validity of warranty claims by indicating if a product has been improperly handled or modified. This helps manufacturers manage warranty claims more effectively and ensures customers adhere to product usage guidelines.

Tracking and Tracing

Equipped with barcodes or RFID technology, security labels enable precise tracking of products from production to delivery. This capability is essential for optimising supply chain management, reducing losses, and enhancing accountability in logistics operations.

For a deeper dive into RFID technology and its wide-ranging applications, we invite you to explore our detailed series of guides:

  • What are RFID Tags?: Discover the essence of RFID tags, explore the various types available, and understand their crucial role in facilitating real-time tracking and efficient data collection.
  • What are RFID Printers?: Delve into the function of RFID printers and learn how they contribute to generating effective tracking and inventory management RFID tags.
  • Mastering RFID Asset Tracking: Access a thorough guide aimed at mastering RFID asset tracking, an essential element in contemporary inventory and resource management strategies.

Legal Compliance

Security labels are often required to meet industry-specific regulations, ensuring products comply with safety standards and quality specifications. This compliance is critical for avoiding legal penalties and maintaining market access.

Brand Protection

Security labels protect a brand’s intellectual property and market position by preventing counterfeiting and unauthorised distribution. This level of protection is vital for preserving a brand’s long-term value and integrity.

Customer Confidence

Security labels on products reassure customers of their safety and authenticity. This confidence is essential for building and maintaining consumer trust, particularly in sectors where product integrity directly impacts consumer well-being.


The adaptability of security labels to various products and industries is a testament to their versatility. Whether it’s electronics, pharmaceuticals, or consumer goods, security labels can be customised to meet the unique security requirements of each sector, offering a tailored solution to product protection challenges.

How to Choose a Security Label?

Flowchart explaining how to choose a security label

Choosing the correct security label requires careful consideration of several factors to ensure effectiveness and suitability for the intended application.

Assess the Surface and Material of the Product

Choose adhesives based on the product’s surface. 

For plastics, opt for adhesives that handle bending; metals require abrasion-resistant options. Automotive parts exposed to oil need labels made from chemical-resistant materials like polyester.

Identify Security Needs

The security level depends on the risk and application. Basic tamper-evident labels work for low-risk items. High-value products need advanced features like holograms or unique serial numbers for tracking and authentication.

Consider Environmental Factors

Select labels that are durable against specific environmental conditions. UV-resistant coatings are essential for outdoor use to prevent fading, while chemical environments demand labels made from materials that resist corrosion.

Ensure Regulatory Compliance

Ensure compliance with industry standards. Pharmaceutical labels should align with FDA guidelines, including tamper-evident features. Food packaging requires clear allergen and nutritional information, following food safety regulations.

Customise for Branding

Look for labels incorporating the brand’s logo and colours to enhance visibility and authenticity. Incorporating variable data printing allows for unique identifiers like QR codes on each label for added security and traceability.

Common Industries Where Security Labels are Used

Five Common Industries Where Security Labels are Used


In the pharmaceutical industry, security labels ensure medication safety and integrity. These labels guard against tampering and confirm authenticity. This is vital due to the risks of counterfeit or altered medications. They can lead to ineffective or dangerous outcomes. 

Labels often have tamper-evident features and unique IDs. This allows for fast checks of a medication’s legitimacy. It reassures both healthcare providers and patients.


In the electronics industry, security labels protect against tampering and counterfeiting. High-value items like smartphones and audio equipment need strong security. Labels show void messages or break if tampered with. This matters for warranties and consumer safety. Counterfeit electronics are a big problem. 

Security labels help confirm a product’s authenticity. QR codes and RFID in labels improve tracking and inventory. This helps manage logistics and prevent theft.


Security labels tackle theft, verify authenticity, and keep inventory accurate. Labels deter shoplifters, confirm product genuineness, and aid in tracking.

For example, RFID tags on clothes trigger alarms if not deactivated. Holographic seals on luxury items prove authenticity. This boosts consumer trust and retailer confidence. Security labels’ versatility makes them crucial in retail, ensuring products stay in their original state.

Finance and Banking

In finance and banking, security labels protect documents and transactions. They combat fraud, identity theft, and data breaches. Labels offer tamper-evident features for items like cheques and certificates. 

They use holograms, watermarks, and serial numbers to stop counterfeiters. Labels also secure ATMs, credit cards, and banking gear from tampering. This protects customer data and prevents fraud. Such security measures build customer trust and meet regulatory standards.

Government and Defence

In government and defence, security labels safeguard classified data and assets. They prevent unauthorised access and tampering, crucial for national security. Labels feature encrypted codes, RFID chips, and tamper-evident seals. 

They protect documents, military gear, and government vehicles. These labels ensure authentication and traceability. They also help track and manage sensitive assets. This keeps government and defence operations secure and accountable. Robust security labels protect national interests and maintain public trust.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Makes A Security Label "Tamper-Evident"?

Tamper-evident security labels are designed with features that reveal evidence of tampering, such as void messages, destructible materials, or irreversible changes in appearance when tampered with. These features provide visual cues to indicate if a label has been compromised, enhancing security and authenticity.

What are the Challenges and Considerations While Using Security Labels?

Challenges in using security labels include selecting the appropriate label for specific applications, ensuring compatibility with different surfaces and environments, and addressing regulatory compliance requirements. Considerations also include balancing security features with cost-effectiveness, evaluating the effectiveness of security measures, and staying ahead of evolving threats and technologies.

Are There Environmental Considerations With Using Physical Security Labels?

Yes, environmental factors can impact the durability and effectiveness of physical security labels. Labels exposed to outdoor elements, chemicals, or extreme temperatures may degrade over time, compromising their integrity and security. It’s important to choose labels designed to withstand environmental conditions and regularly evaluate their performance to ensure continued effectiveness.

The Bottom Line

Security labels are indispensable assets in safeguarding products and information integrity. 

They ensure that tampering attempts are immediately evident and unauthorised access is deterred. With security labels in place, businesses can rest assured that their goods remain untouched and meet the highest standards of safety and authenticity.

We trust this article has equipped you with valuable insights into the significance of security labels and how they bolster protection and trust in various industries.

Thanks for reading! 

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