In this digital age, physical forms of security have lost the spotlight with more emphasis given on cyber or digital security.
While the property crime rate in the US has declined according to the 2015 FBI Crime Statistics and the rate of cyber crimes (such as hacking and stealing personal information via computers and mobile phones) have increased, the importance of physical security shouldn’t be diminished and should still be given appropriate attention. For as long as risks of theft and violence continue to exist, physical locks will continue to play a role in people’s daily safety and security.
So how much do you know about modern locks and how effective they are in keeping you and your possessions safe? Is using locks still a reliable method for preventing crime?
As lock pickers, we aim to learn how certain changes affect how locks operate and figure out security design weaknesses. Here are some of the things we have learned about physical security and how you can use this knowledge to protect you and your family.
How locks work is very straight-forward.
Locks are meant to do just what they were named for, to lock and guard areas or containers as well as the people or objects within them. While keeping intruders out, locks also gave owners or authorized personnel control over access to these places and repositories.
Locks are among the oldest forms of security technology. In fact, the common tumbler lock still uses a mechanism invented in ancient Egypt and popularized in the 19th century by American inventor Linus Yale, Jr.
Here’s an excellent look on how a key works on a tumbler lock:
Here you can see a series of thin metal pins running down the cylinder and a set of small springs keeping them in place. Once you insert the key, the jagged edge lifts up each pin and aligns them to the top of the cylinder. With all the pins lined up, there’s nothing to stop the cylinder from rotating, so the lock opens.
Most locks are easy to pick.
In theory, the more pins a lock has, the more secure it should be. However, not all locks are manufactured at ideal standards due to poor machinery and low budgets. The pins of low quality or older lock don’t align as well as they should. This plus with the fact that holding the plug makes it easy for the pins to be tackled with one at a time, makes it easy for locks to be picked.
With the correct tools, the right amount of force and the appropriate techniques, anyone can learn to effectively pick a lock.
European locks are often better than American.
Multi-point locks are locks that latch on at least three points instead of the usual locks that latch at only one or two points. These are more common throughout Europe than in America. Two reasons why they have failed to gain popularity here is because they are more difficult to install and they require lifting a lever before the door can be opened.
It’s impossible to create an “unpickable” lock.
While innovation in the lock-making industry gave birth to several designs, including those which may seem perfect, each comes with its own flaws.
Some manufacturers, for instance, redesign their internal locking mechanisms by simply rearranging the same basic pins. This locks end up having the same weaknesses as their predecessors thus, can easily be manipulated using new tools and techniques.
Locks are no match to brute force attacks.
Finally, creating a perfect lock is practically useless when it comes to forced entries that require neither stealth nor finesse. If a burglar finds a lock too hard to pick, they would rather break a window or drill through the safe than waste time.
To better protect ourselves, thorough understanding of the purpose and weaknesses of locks are required. By understanding the weaknesses of locks, you can reinforce the security of your home using other methods that deal with brute force attacks.