A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals.
Posted On by Ralph Goodman
The only thing worse than buying something that does not work is having that thing stolen so you can’t return it. A lock that does not protect your property is not just worthless, it is dangerous. Worse still, when your locks provide no security you will often be the last one to know. Criminals most often act out of convenience. If there is a lock in view that has a known weakness then that becomes the easy target. There is no such thing as perfect security, but there is most definitely good and bad security. In this article, we will be focusing on the latter. These locks fail to live up to their claims. Whether that claim is that they prevent lock bumping, or simply that they provide protection. All the locks below are guilty of more than being very easy to pick. On the contrary, some of them are very difficult, or impossible to pick. Weaknesses in these locks make them susceptible to methods simpler than picking, quieter than drilling, and widely available to learn.
The Master Lock 175 does not open with a key. Instead, a combination is input into the lock by rotating 4 wheels. A large issue with four-wheel padlocks is that they can be easily decoded. Decoding usually requires a small knife like object (small in thickness and width) to be placed on the sides of the wheels like a feeler gauge. You would then find a small gap in the wheel that would snag your tool. Once this is done for every wheel, you would be able to move them all together and eventually you would get the correct combination. That is not necessary for this device. By using the same type of tool you can open the lock much easier. You can use a regular lock pick, from your personal lock pick set, for this or the same type of tool that could be used for a feeler gauge in the first scenario and bypass the lock altogether. Depress the shackle of the padlock, then insert your tool above any of the wheels. Make sure to insert the pick at an angle so that you can sweep the pick to the other side. Release pressure on the shackle, and the lock should open.
This is possible because the locking arm of the padlock can be manipulated from this gap. The locking arm is an interior piece of the lock that has a bar on either side of each wheel. The sweep of the pick is going to depress the locking arm and raise a gate. Once the gate is elevated it will allow the locking dogs (or locking bars) to move out of the way of the shackle. And with no real skill or practice a thief should be able to open your lock in a matter of seconds.
The Abus ZB is a four-wheel combination padlock similar to the Master 175. Shockingly it has a very similar bypass. It is only slightly more challenging as it requires a modification to your tool and a specific place for insertion. The lock can be opened with a standard hook lock pick, or any long piece of metal that will fit between the wheel. Once you have the tool, you need to adjust it. The tool will need to have the very tip bent slightly to the right. By placing the pick in the gap and pressing it toward the lock, you can get the right type of shape. The reason for this added step is because Abus has installed anti-shim barriers. (So take comfort that your lock cannot also be shimmed.) When the numbers are right side up, locate the third wheel from the left. Place your tool on the right side of the third wheel (this seems to be the most effective entry point for the method). The shackle will need to be depressed during this process. Move the pick up and down in the gap, and the shackle will release when you remove the pressure.
The Mul-T-Lock MT5 is a very good lock. It is very high security and incredibly difficult to pick, but the inclusion of the thumb turn negates the security of the lock. With the thumb turn installed the lock can be bypassed. All the thief will need to do is manipulate the actuator. Anyone can purchase the specialty tools to open these Euro-cylinders. No matter how reliable your lock is, if there is a way around it, it can give you no security. Once the tool is inside the lock, it is pressed farther than the pins until it makes contact with the actuator for the thumb turn. Once this is reached the cam can be rotated as if you were on the other side turning the handle.
The U change is not a very good lock in terms of security. They are very easy to pick and only have five pins, but most thieves don’t pick locks. That is why it even more discouraging that there is an even easier way to pick them. You can use any key blank that will fit into the keyway and a small bypass key, or you can by the special U-Change By-pass kit. For me, there is a red flag whenever a criminal can buy a bypass set for a particular type of lock. That should give you an indication of how unsafe this lock is. With your tools, you just need to insert your key blank or change key (anything that will raise all the pins to their maximum height). Then place the bypass key into the small slot next to the keyhole. Rotate the bypass key to the six o’clock position. Remove the key blank. And turn the cylinder with a screwdriver. And with that the lock is open.
The SmartKey Cylinder has been criticized for a very long time by locksmiths, locksport enthusiasts, and home security professionals alike. Although it is not easy to pick, and has not been bumped, yet, it has a very publicized method of forced entry. Criminals only need a key blank, a screwdriver, a pair of pliers, and a hammer. The blade of the key blank is inserted into the lock and forced deeper with the screwdriver. The screwdriver is hammered into the keyway further and then turned with the pliers. Once it is turned the bolt will retract and the door is open. This lock cylinder is quite recognizable by the small hole next to the keyway and is used on padlocks and even the Kevo Smart Lock. Although each one of these SmartKey cylinders might have different model numbers, the security has not been increased. With the SmartKey padlock, you can even remove the cylinder by striking the lock body a few times with a hammer. The SmartKey, in addition to all of these issues, also has a specific tool that is made to open it. It functions similar to the way a bump key would open a lock, but it is classified as a destructive entry method.
The Abus 82 is a shutter style padlock that comes in a variety of sizes. There is no inherent problem with having shutter padlocks like there is for having four-wheel locks. The issue with this series of Abus locks is the internal mechanisms. The locks are not difficult to pick, but yet again, there is a bypass. A sharpened steel pick can be inserted into the lock to manipulate the actuator, and the shackle will release. This is possible because the actuator is made of brass and the pick is made from a harder metal, steel. With a sharpened point, the pick can bite into the brass and move the piece downward. Once the actuator is moved down, the preloaded spring in the lock body will propel the shackle free.
Schlage made a very bold claim when it began to tout the SecureKey as bump proof. It has been shown to be very bumpable, but worse than that it is also easily re-keyable. This means that once a criminal has used a bump key to open your lock they can also rekey your lock. So now not only does your key not work but now the criminal has a functioning key. Not only can this lock be bumped, and rekeyed to the criminal’s liking, but they are also easy enough to identify. Schlage was proud enough to engrave a plus above each and every SecureKey keyway and now criminals have now problem picking them out of a lineup. This lock has been discontinued as a result of its humiliation, but if you still have them on your doors, should know that they are merely negating the security of your door. There is no special bypass, the lock just simply does not perform as advertised.
The 5200 model from the American Lock Company holds up relatively well to picking attacks. Similar to the Mul-T-Lock MT5, it has a fine core. But unlike the Mul-T-Lock MT5, the additional part of the lock that allows it to be bypassed is included in every one of the locks. The American 5200 has a cam on the end of the core that will rotate a secondary spring tensioned piece in the lock. As a result of this design, you can ignore the pin tumbler core and just manipulate the cam on the tensioned part of the device. A bypass tool can be purchased that does exactly that. On this tool the angle of the tip, the thickness, and the curve on one side are very important. Without the right specifications on the pick, it will not bypass correctly. This did create an issue for a while, and criminals began to target this model of padlock. The answer the American Lock Company came up with was to add a stainless steel washer type device to shield the core from the bypass. The next step for the bypass was to break this wafer, so companies began to sell new tools for this. Now the bypass takes minutes instead of seconds.
The Master Lock #3 is one of the most common padlocks that you will see. It is available to purchase all over the United States in big brand stores, and it is quite cheap. It is also one of the worst locks in terms of security. If you want to use the most difficult method of entry, single pin picking, it will open this lock in seconds. They can be unlocked by raking, with zip ties, bamboo shoots, cat food cans, and pretty much anything else that will fit in the keyway. It would almost be comical how bad this lock was if it was not compromising so many people’s security. It also has a bypass and special tools made for that bypass. Two tools are placed in the lock. One moves all the key pins to the highest position and the other reaches to the back of the lock and releases the locking dogs. But if you have a chicken bone, rumor has it that that is all you need. A chicken bone and a tension wrench. This lock offers no security against any type of attack. It is nothing more than a decoration for your gate, bike, or whatever other item you don’t care about losing. It sounds harsh, but this lock does not offer any security, and the people that are the most aware of its failings are criminals.
Not all locks are physical. The Android pattern lock is a code that you input into your android device to unlock your phone. These types of digital locks are often thought to be more secure than physical security, and with good reason. Most of these locks work in conjunction with biometric technology, which places them in a league of their own. Few people really understand these machines, and overcoming digital technology requires a bit of electronic and mechanical engineering, and perhaps even some coding knowledge. But you don’t need to know any of that to overcome the pattern lock on Android devices. With a simple factory reset, a criminal can open your phone and erase all of your data. By just turning off the phone the process begins.
Once it is off, you just hold down both sides of the volume key and the power button. It will vibrate three times, and then you will release the power button and keep the pressure on the volume buttons. Once you get the system recovery screen you can use the volume buttons to move up and down to select the line you want. Go to wipe data/factory reset and click either the home or power button (different for different devices). Then you select reboot system and the phone will be like new. This process will erase the contacts and any information stored on the device, but what does a thief care about your personal info? If we are being honest, most criminals are just after the phone. If they can steal any personal info I am certain they would, but it is the physical object that they want.
Now that you know about the dangers of using these products to secure your homes and valuables, I would recommend you keep researching. When you are thinking of installing new residential locks do a quick check online to see if there are internet videos informing the world on how to open your lock. Check if a kid on youtube has a step by step guide on how to unlock your phone. Go on forums like Lockpicking 101 and Key Picking and talk to the lock community. Your local locksmith can help you gather information about possible bypasses. Security is important. The illusion of security is dangerous. Be aware of the limitations of your situation. There is no such thing as perfect security, but that does not mean you should leave yourself vulnerable. It is not my desire to be shocking, but this should alarm you and cause you to think about your personal security. None of these methods should be used to commit criminal acts. The processes are described so that the general public can know how vulnerable these locks are. Criminals already have this information. Be knowledgeable, and be safe.