Locks are so, like, last century.

You’ve probably not heard of a bump key.

Here’s why you should care:

A Yale-type, or cylinder, lock has a cylinder that rotates.

The mountains and valleys, the dents cut into the top of your key, push small pieces of metal (known as pins) within the lock up and down. Most of the time, they stick into the cylinder, preventing it from being turned.

When the pins are moved up or down by the right amount – by the correct key, f’rexample – the pins no longer stick through into the cylinder, and the cylinder can rotate. Turn the cylinder, the latch withdraws, and the lock opens.

In a bump key, all of the mountains and valleys on a key are set to the lowest setting, ground down as far as they’ll go.

To use a bump key, you simply insert the key most of the way into a lock and give it a good hard tap.

The mountains and valleys on the key push the pins up. Because it’s a good hard tap, the pins bounce all the way to the top of the lock, leaving the path free for the cylinder to rotate, and BUMP, you’re in.

So a Yale-type lock can now be opened in seconds by people with no particular lockpicking skills to speak of.

More information here (PDF) and here.

Security through obscurity is not any security at all.

Thought you should know.

4 Replies to “Locks are so, like, last century.”

  1. what are you talking about – are you scared or summat?

    Here in the nicest parts of Cape Town we have burglar bars, safety gates, spanish bars, barbed wire, armed response alarms, big bitey dogs…

    and it all helps keep the scared witless – and the unwitting – scary

  2. If you have access to a key-cutting machine, you just need to set it to all the nines.

    For anyone else, you’re looking at a file and a bit of hand-carving.

    Of course, you do also need to get the type of groove correct – but any locksmith will have all the standard keypaths.

    Failing that, rent an apartment in the same building. Odds are they’ve got the same keypath so that the building superintendent can use a master key. You can then grind the key to your rented apartment all the way down – and you’re in.

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