Lock picking

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search


A traditional set of pin/tumbler lock lock picks. The two tools on the left are torsion (tension) wrenches. The picks from left to right are: hook pick, half diamond (steep angles), snake rake, half diamond (shallow angles), S-rake pick, double round pick and long double ended pick.
A deadbolt lock that has been picked, showing that the plug has been turned without the key.

Lock picking is the art of unlocking a lock by manipulating the components of the lock device without the original key.

Although lock picking can be associated with criminal intent, it is an essential skill for the legal profession of locksmithing, and is also pursued by law-abiding citizens as a useful skill to learn, or simply as a hobby.

In some countries, such as Japan, lock picking tools are illegal for most people to possess, but in many others they are available and legal to own as long as there is no intent to use them for criminal purposes.

History[edit]

Locks by definition secure or fasten something with the intention that access is only possible with the matching key. Despite this, it is likely that criminal lock picking started with the first locks. Famed locksmith Alfred Charles Hobbs said in the mid 1800s:

"..Rogues are very keen in their profession, and know already much more than we can teach them respecting their several kinds of roguery. Rogues knew a good deal about lock-picking long before locksmiths discussed it among themselves..."[1]

Professional and recreational lock picking also has a long history. King Louis XVI of France (1754–1793) was a keen designer, picker and manipulator of locks,[2] and physicist Richard Feynman picked locks for fun in the 1940s while employed on the Manhattan Project. The tradition of student roof and tunnel hacking at MIT included lockpicking,[3] and their guide to this was made widely available in 1991 as The MIT Guide to Lock Picking.

Beginning in 1997[4][5] more organised recreational lockpicking has now grown and developed a competitive aspect in "locksport" - along with its own governing body, Locksport International[6][7]

Tools[edit]

A common set of Skeleton Keys used to open most types of warded padlocks

Skeleton keys[edit]

The warded pick, also known as a skeleton key, is used for opening warded locks. It is generally made to conform to a generalized key shape relatively simpler than the actual key used to open the lock; this simpler shape allows for internal manipulations.
The keys for warded locks only require the end section which is the one which actually open the locks. The other parts are there to distinguish between different variation of their locks. I.e if you have a chest of drawers with a warded lock you can make a skeleton key for that type of warded lock by filing away all but the last one or two teeth or bittings on both sides of the blade. Additionally, a series of grooves on either side of the key's blade limit the type of lock the key can slide into. As the key slides into the lock through the keyway, the wards align with the grooves in the key's profile to allow or deny entry into the lock cylinder.
A traditional pickset. From left to right: torsion wrench, "twist-flex" torsion wrench, offset diamond pick, ball pick, half-diamond pick, short hook, medium hook, saw (or "L") rake, snake (or "C") rake.

Lever tumbler lock picking[edit]

Curtain Pick[edit]

Lever Tumbler Lock can be opened by a type of lockpick called Curtain Pick.

Pin tumbler lock picking[edit]

Torsion wrench[edit]

The torsion wrench is always needed when picking a pin/tumbler or wafer lock, even with the use of a pick gun. It is used to apply torque to the plug of a lock in order to hold any picked pins in place. Once all pins are picked, the torsion wrench is then used to turn the plug and open the lock. It is typically shaped like a letter "L", although the vertical part of the letter is elongated in comparison to the horizontal part. Other torsion tools, especially those for use with cars, resemble a pair of tweezers and allow the user to apply torque to both the top and the bottom of the lock. These are commonly used with double-sided wafer locks.

Half-diamond pick[edit]

This versatile pick is included in nearly all kits and is mainly used for picking individual pins, but can also be used for raking and for wafer and disk locks. The triangular-shaped half-diamond is usually 2.5 to 12.2 millimeters (0.098 to 0.480 inches) long. The angles that form the base of the half-diamond can be either steep or shallow, depending on the need for picking without affecting neighboring pins, or raking as appropriate. A normal set comprises around three half-diamond picks and a full-diamond pick.

Hook pick[edit]

The hook pick is similar to the half-diamond pick, but has a hook-shaped tip rather than a half-diamond shape. The hook pick is sometimes referred to as a "feeler" or "finger" and is not used for raking. This is the most basic lockpicking tool and is all that a professional will usually need if the lock is to be picked in the traditional sense rather than opened by raking or using a pick gun. A variety of differently sized and shaped hooks are available in a normal set.

Ball pick[edit]

The ball pick is similar to the half-diamond pick, except the end of the pick has a Half or full circle shape. This pick is commonly used to open wafer locks.
Rake picks
Two types of rake pick, the double and triple peak, sometimes known as bogota rakes
These picks, such as the common snake rake, are designed to rake pins by rapidly sliding the pick past all the pins, repeatedly, in order to bounce the pins until they reach the shear line. This method requires much less skill than picking pins individually, and generally works well on cheaper locks. Advanced rakes are available which are shaped to mimic various different pin height key positions and are considerably easier to use than traditional rakes. Such rakes are typically machined from a template of common key configurations, since not all permutations of pin heights for adjacent pins are possible given the process by which keys are manufactured.
Decoder pick
The decoder pick is a key which has been adapted such that the height of its notches can be changed, either by screwing them into the blade base or by adjusting them from the handle while the key is in the lock. This will allow not only access to the lock but also a template for cutting a replacement key.

Bump keys[edit]

A typical bump key
The simplest way to open the majority of pin locks is to insert a key (or variety of keys) which have been cut so that each peak of the key is equal and has been cut down to the lowest groove of the key. This key is then struck sharply with a hammer whilst applying torque. The force of the blow is carried down the length of the key and (operating as does a Newton's cradle) will force the top pins only to jump above the shear line leaving the bottom pins in place.[8] Some modern high security locks include bumping protection, such as Master Lock's "BumpStop"[9] and Ilco's "Bump Halt"[10] technology.

Wafer tumbler lock picking[edit]

Jigglers or Try-out keys[edit]

Majority of Wafer Tumbler locks can be opened with a set of Jigglers or Try-out keys.

Pick guns[edit]

Main article: Snap gun
A snap gun

The manual pick gun (or Snap gun) was invented by Ely Epstein.[11] usually has a trigger that creates a movement which (like bump keys) transfers sudden energy to the key pins which communicate this to the driver pins causing those pins only to jump, allowing the cylinder to turn freely for a brief moment, until the pin springs return the pins to their locking position. Electric versions are now also common, where by simply pressing a button the pins are vibrated while the normal torsion wrench is being used.

Tubular lock pick[edit]

A tubular lock pick is a specialized lockpicking tool used for opening a tubular pin tumbler lock. Tubular lock picks are all very similar in design and come in sizes to fit all major tubular locks, including 6, 7, 8, and 10-pin locks. The tool is simply inserted into the lock and turned clockwise with medium tension. As the tool is pushed into the lock, each of the pins is slowly forced down until they stop, thus binding the driver pins behind the shear line of the lock. When the final pick is pushed down, the shear plane is clear and the lock opens. This can usually be accomplished in a matter of seconds.

Most tubular lock picks come with a "decoder" which lets the locksmith know at what depths the pins broke the shear plane. By using the decoding key after the lock has been picked, the locksmith can cut a tubular key to the correct pin depths and thus avoid having to replace the lock.

Anti-picking methods[edit]

The history of lock development, particularly modern locks is largely one of an arms race between lock pickers and lock inventors.

Today's anti-picking methods in standard pin tumbler locks include the use of side wards which obstruct the key way, and "security pins". These are shaped like a spool, mushroom, or barrel - with the effect that they feel as though they have set when in fact they have not.[12]

Legal status[edit]

United States[edit]

In the United States, laws concerning possession of lock picks vary from state to state. Generally, possession and use of lock picks is considered equivalent to the possession of a crowbar or any other tool that may or may not be used in a burglary. Illegal possession of lock picks is generally prosecuted as a felony under the category of possession of burglary tools or similar statutes.[13] In many states, simple possession is completely legal as their statutes require proof of intent.
In California, locksmiths must be licensed by the state.[14] However, possession by laymen may be legal in most states. This is the case because illegal possession must be coupled with felonious or malicious intent.[15] This is also the case in Arizona,[16] Utah,[17] Maine, Massachusetts,[18] New Hampshire,[19] Washington D.C., Washington State,[20] and New York.[21][22][citation needed]

Japan[edit]

Japan's law prohibits possession of any lock picking tools and carries a penalty of one year imprisonment or a 500,000 yen fine.[23]

Canada[edit]

In Canada, possession of lock picking tools, with the exception of key duplication tools, is legal. Lock pick tools fit in the same category as crowbars or hammers, meaning they are legal to possess and use unless they are used to commit a crime or if it is shown there was intention to commit a crime. Section 351 of the Canadian Criminal Code criminalizes the "possession any instrument suitable for the purpose of breaking into any place, motor vehicle, vault or safe under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the instrument has been used or is or was intended to be used for such a purpose", and carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.[24]
Some provinces require a license to carry lock picks.[25] Unlike most laws in Canada, the onus is on the defendant to prove that they have a legal purpose to use the lock picks. The Government is not required to prove that the defendant has an unlawful or malicious intent.[24]

Netherlands[edit]

In the Netherlands, owning lock picks is legal, but using them on someone else's locks without permission is not. There is a lock picking championship, the Dutch Open (organized by TOOOL), which started in 2002 and features competitors from around the world. The competition is held during LockCon, an annual conference about locks.[26][27]

Poland[edit]

In Poland according to Article 129/1 of the Criminal Code: both (1) possessing, producing or obtaining a lock pick by a person whose profession and occupation does not require it; and (2) delivering a lock pick to a person whose profession and occupation does not require it is punishable with arrest, freedom limitation or fine - and (3) a lock pick is forfeited even if it was not the property of the principal.

Hungary[edit]

Unusually for a European Union country, ownership of lock picks in Hungary is completely prohibited, even for professional locksmiths. Lock picks are classified as military equipment, and may only be legally obtained or used by Hungary's armed forces.

United Kingdom[edit]

In the United Kingdom, a person who carries anything at all with the intent to commit burglary or theft can potentially be prosecuted.[28] The penalty for this can be up to 3 years imprisonment. In the case of items specifically made or altered to be usable in burglary or theft, such as lock-picks, mere possession presumes intent – there is no need to prove it.

New Zealand[edit]

In New Zealand lock picking tools are not illegal, but possession with the intent to use them for burglary carries a potential penalty of three years in prison.[29]

Australia[edit]

In Australia possession of lock picking equipment is legal as long as a reasonable explanation can be demonstrated for such.[30][31]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ A. C. Hobbs (Charles Tomlinson, ed.), Locks and Safes: The Construction of Locks. Published by Virtue & Co., London, 1853 (revised 1868).
  2. ^ Andress, David. "The Terror", Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2005, p. 12-13
  3. ^ "The MIT Hacking community is saddened by the series of recent events which have made the "MIT Guide To Lockpicking" available electronically in a indiscriminate fashion"
  4. ^ History - Sport enthusiasts of Lockpicking - Germany
  5. ^ FAQ - "What happened to the NVHS?"
  6. ^ "Lock Picking for Sport Cracks the Mainstream"
  7. ^ "Hobbyists embrace the joys of picking locks"
  8. ^ "Understanding Bump Keys (Video)". L. Scott Harrell. 19 Apr 2009. Retrieved Oct 1, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Security Enhancements", Master Lock
  10. ^ "Bump Halt" cylinder FAQ, ILCO.com
  11. ^ "http://www.lockmuseumofamerica.org/founders__the_legacy0.aspx". www.lockmuseumofamerica.org. Retrieved 2016-03-08.  External link in |title= (help)
  12. ^ "Security pin - Lockwiki". www.lockwiki.com. Retrieved 2016-03-08. 
  13. ^ "Possession of Burglary Tools | LegalMatch Law Library". www.legalmatch.com. 2015-06-22. Retrieved 2016-03-08. 
  14. ^ "Locksmith Companies and Employees". California Department of Consumer Affairs. 
  15. ^ "California Penal Codes, Sections 466–469". California Legislative Information. 
  16. ^ "Arizona Revised Statutes Title 13 - Chapter 13 - Section 13-1505". Arizona State Legislature. Retrieved July 10, 2010. 
  17. ^ Utah Criminal Code: Title 76 - Chapter 06 - Section 205
  18. ^ "POSSESSION OF BURGLARIOUS TOOLS" (PDF). Massachusetts Court System. Massachusetts Court System. 2009. Retrieved March 7, 2016. 
  19. ^ "Section 635:1 Burglary.". www.gencourt.state.nh.us. Retrieved 2016-03-08. 
  20. ^ "RCW 9A.52.060: Making or having burglar tools.". app.leg.wa.gov. Retrieved 2016-03-08. 
  21. ^ "Locksmith License". NYC 311. Retrieved 2016-03-08. 
  22. ^ "POSSESSION OF BURGLAR'S TOOLS" (PDF). https://www.nycourts.gov/. New York State Unified Court System. September 1, 1967. Retrieved March 7, 2016.  External link in |website= (help)
  23. ^ ja:特殊開錠用具の所持の禁止等に関する法律
  24. ^ a b "Criminal Code". Laws-lois.justice.gc.ca. Retrieved 2016-04-13. 
  25. ^ "lockpickcanada.com". 
  26. ^ "Lockpicking". Retrieved 7 February 2013. 
  27. ^ "Lock pickers hebben slot in paar seconden open", the Leeuwarder Courant, 2002-12-02
    • "Vito Tieke", Even Vragen Aan, the Algemeen Dagblad, 2002-12-02
    • "Duitser kampioen sloten openen", the Sp!ts, probably 2002-12-02
    • "Duitser wordt in Sneek kampioen sloten openen", the Friesch Dagblad, probably 2002-12-02
    • "Duitser eerste kampioen sloten openen in Sneek", the Dagblad van het Noorden, probably 2002-12-02
    • "Sloten openen als nieuwe sport", Dagblad de Limburger, probably 2002-12-02
    Note: the dates of some articles were not available, but considering the fact that newspapers generally report promptly, it can be assumed the given dates are correct.
    It was also documented on television, in the programs Hart van Nederland and on Omproep Friesland.
  28. ^ "Legislation index". Retrieved 2013-06-28. 
  29. ^ "New Zealand Crimes Act (1961), Section 223, subsection 1 - Being disguised or in possession of instrument for burglary". Retrieved 2008-03-26. 
  30. ^ "SUMMARY OFFENCES BILL 2004 Explanatory Notes". Austlii.edu.au. Retrieved 2016-04-13. 
  31. ^ https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/publication-documents/Review%20of%20Maximum%20Penalties%20for%20Preparatory%20Offences%20Report.pdf p18

External links[edit]