Features Business Management
Security solutions to foil counterfeiters and hackers

Adrian Wilkinson of Konica Minolta discusses data security in the printing industry, as well as potential solutions to this threat.

June 23, 2020
By Victoria Gaitskell


Dedicated technology that can combine digital spot varnish and spot foil processes to produce holographic effects gives printers an entry point into the high-margin field of security printing, says Adrian Wilkinson, product marketing manager of production for Konica Minolta Business Solutions (iCanada) Ltd. in Mississauga, Ont.

Wilkinson explains that Konica Minolta’s MGI iFOIL S Printing Press works in combination with the JETvarnish 3DS to perform inline embossing and hot foil stamping through a 100-per-cent digital process. Among the spectacular visual and tactile effects that can result from this equipment pairing is Authentication Hologram Digital Printing (AHDP), a patented process using specially formulated toner and foil to produce holographic effects that can be used to create customized security authentication options for brands or products. Wilkinson says the advantages of AHDP technology include that it can be combined with variable data printing and executed much more easily, quickly, and inexpensively – without the need for films, expensive dies, and lengthy makeready – in contrast to traditional spot varnish and cold foil stamping.

Brand and packaging security

Other security measures that can be applied to packaging as variable data applications include serial numbers or other unique identification codes, says Wilkinson. Still, other security devices that he expects will become more prevalent in packaging designs of the future include radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips and augmented reality (AR). Both RFID and AR technologies enable users to access digital content from a package using their smartphone or other mobile device.


“Although serial numbers, identification codes, AR, and RFID are not necessarily directly related to security printing, they are design features the brand owner can build in, to ensure product authentication and that their brand is not being impersonated by someone else,” says Wilkinson. Trends in Trade in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods, a 2019 report published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), states that the current boom in e-commerce sales is driving a global surge in fake and pirated merchandise with an estimated value of half-a-trillion U.S. dollars or 3.3 per cent of the world’s entire trade volumes. “Small parcels sent by post or express courier are a prime and growing conduit for counterfeit goods,” the OECD report states.

The website of the Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network (CACN) reports that the 11 counterfeit goods most often seized by customs (in descending order of frequency) include: shoes, knitted clothing, leather goods, electrical machinery and equipment, watches, medical instruments, non-knitted clothing, perfumes and cosmetics, toys, pharmaceuticals, and jewellery. This list provides confirmation of many types of brand owners who would likely benefit by incorporating security features into their packaging designs, and there are probably many more.

However, Wilkinson says that in his experience, rather than being primarily focused on security concerns, brand owners are typically more focused on making their brand or product appear unique. Thus, at the present time, they are more interested in using spot varnish and foil to grab consumers’ attention.

“A lot of times these effects are used for short-run boutique projects,” he says.

For example, an automobile manufacturer might invest in customized packaging with a deluxe, exclusive feel to hold keys and accessories for a newly purchased high-end car. Purchasers would receive this special presentation package at the time of delivery of their new premium vehicle.

“I do not often hear of security holograms being expressed as a primary need from a brand ownership perspective,” continues Wilkinson. “But even though security may not be a forefront discussion, it’s definitely something printers can explore in their dialogue with brand owners and suggest they incorporate into their packaging along with decorative spot varnish and spot foil effects.”

In fact, a report by global business management consulting firm Smithers confirms that the market potential for brand protection, anti-counterfeiting, and security packaging components is growing.

“As the brand protection industry is moving from optical to digital authentication methods, and track-and-trace systems emphasize coded systems to create integrity in the supply chain, there is an opportunity for holographic marks that can be authenticated automatically or via a smart device,” reads Smithers’ online synopsis of the report. The Smithers report forecasts global growth for anti-counterfeiting packaging during the period 2019-24 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.4 per cent to over US $4 billion.

Data security

Wilkinson says that Konica Minolta supports another completely different aspect of security printing by means of a comprehensive multi-tiered Total Security System for its bizhub multifunction printers. These devices combine printing, copying, and scanning functions.

Every Konica Minolta multifunction printer comes equipped with bizhub SECURE, a security service for the device, consisting of such features as a password lock, hard drive encryption, auto-deletion of temporary data, and antivirus protection. Wilkinson says an extensive penetration test by global cybersecurity organization NTT Data, involving over 80 hours of simulated attacks by sources ranging from hackers to malware, has certified that Konica Minolta’s multifunction printers maintain the privacy and integrity of all stored information against compromise or extraction.

Other components of Konica Minolta’s Total Security System that can be activated, depending on a particular company’s individual needs for information privacy and security, include:

  • Access control to restrict device usage to registered authorized users
  • A document security system that monitors digital activity to and from printers. This feature provides a full document audit trail by depositing copies of documents into a searchable, monitored repository with a breach-alert notification system
  • Comprehensive assessment of a company’s vulnerabilities and risk profile
  • Physical security via advanced video surveillance technology
  • Managed security services.

How businesses collect, store, use, and share personal information about Canadians is governed by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). But critics have long argued that the current privacy legislation lacks teeth, especially in an age when major data breaches are commonplace and social media platforms that amass personal information about Canadians abound. Critics have urged such reforms as significant fines for companies that breach privacy rules and empowering the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, the nation’s privacy watchdog, to order private companies to comply.

In response last May, Canada’s governing Liberal Party released a “Digital Charter” setting out 10 broad principles on how they intend to deal with issues like data ownership and privacy protections. Recently, Federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Navdeep Bains told the Toronto Star that he expects to back up those principles with legislation within a matter of months. Between these expected reforms and the growing concerns of Canadians about their privacy, data and document security are likely to become even higher priorities. Prospective clients will be even more likely to choose to do business with companies that can demonstrate they will handle personal information with the appropriate level of care.

“We are definitely trying to raise awareness of the importance of preventative information security and provide expert assistance to guide printers and other clients through the steps involved in maintaining it. But in unfortunate instances [of breaches] where the horses have already left the barn, we can assist in the recovery process as well,” says Wilkinson.


This feature was originally published in the April 2020 issue of PrintAction, now available online