For years people have asked me if they need to replace their locks with ones that are more resistant to lockpicking. Until now I have always said that unless it is known that you have things highly desirable to thieves, a standard five pin Schlage deadbolt is probably good enough. Until now except rarely thieves haven’t been using lockpicks or other professional tools for lock bypass and manipulation, but that is changing.
In the past month one of my customers in a troubled building has found a lockpick outside his building’s front door. In a different building’s back door I found a broken lockpick. What this means is that the minimum bar for security has been raised. Now apartment buildings need the same high security cylinders that banks and jewelry stores have been using for decades.
The reason for this is up for debate but my personal theory is that police response times in Seattle are not great and criminals know it. They have more time to break into buildings to steal packages or break into cars before authorities show up. Even if they are caught they know that they won’t be held for long, often getting back out a few days later.
Add into the mix the popular Youtube channel The Lockpicking Lawyer whose videos raise awareness of how easy lockpicking can be and also sells said lockpicks to anybody and it is hard to imagine that this situation wouldn’t have arisen. Along with standard lockpicks, criminals with a little more money can buy Lishi picks (from The Lockpicking Lawyer) which will open more than half the commercial and apartment buildings in Seattle. These tools cost under $100 online and can be purchased by anybody.
The more interesting question is what to do to prevent illicit entry with the proliferation of lock bypass and manipulation tools. The answer is that building owners can no longer rely on inexpensive lock pin tumbler lock cylinders that have been standard for more than 100 years. It’s old technology and with the help of Youtube and the vast knowledge available on the internet criminals have caught up. It is time, at least in Seattle, to upgrade to higher security lock cylinders that are much harder to open without a key.
There are a few features that building owners should be looking for in an upgrade. Pick resistance comes from difficult keyways, sidebars, security pins and other features found in higher security locks. These locks frequently also feature other desirable features like restricted keyways and hardened steel inserts to prevent drilling.
I sell a few different keyways that fit the bill. While budgeting for a new expensive lock system and keys, also consider moving to an audited electronic form of entry. Don’t be cheap with electronic locks though. Many buildings are implementing fob systems that are no longer very secure either. The cheapest fobs that are also the most common are easily cloned at Minutekey kiosks. These systems are also quickly and easily spoofed with off the shelf electronics and tutorials on how to do it are easy to find on Youtube where the lockpicking lawyer helpfully also points out where to buy these tools.
The “Flipper Zero” is a new tool available for less than $200. It can be used to unlock a lot of doors using key fobs. Access control systems can use higher encryption that is more difficult for these tools to crack and also prevents unauthorized duplication of fobs. Iclass cards for example. I don’t do a lot of access control systems because in this state I’m not allowed to run wires.