The Problem with Locking Devices

Locking devices provide a false sense of security. With a Youtube search and a bit of practice, most locks can be easily defeated. A lock can be picked using hairpins, paperclips, or a number of other tools varying from makeshift to professional.

It is also possible to quickly and easily duplicate a key. This can be done quickly in a low-tech manner using a lighter, a piece of tin, scissors, and tape. It can also be done in a more sophisticated manner, through 3D printing.  In September 2015, the TSA released photos of the master key that is used to open locks travelers place on their luggage. From the photo alone, it was possible for 3D printing hobbyists to then duplicate a working copy of the master key.  Fortunately, when this method was tested on standard security locks, it was found that the current 3D printing materials available for home printing are not strong enough to duplicate keys that would unlock these devices. However, this technology is rapidly evolving and becoming very affordable. There are now 3D printers on the market starting at $200.

Another popular method of defeating a lock is by using a bump key. A bump key can be created by filing down the bittings on the appropriate key type or simply by purchasing a set of bump keys online. This key can then be used to activate the springs in a pin and tumbler lock and force the pins into a position on the shear line that allows the lock to be opened.

Master keying systems create an additional weakness to the locking device by creating additional shear lines in the lock and by allowing for more possible combinations to open the lock, a concept known as amplification. This may not present a problem in high security environments where security has been layered alongside alarm systems and CCTV systems and security training has been provided to employees. It does become a concern in environments like condos, where an individual’s front door is considered to be part of the condo corporation’s property and there is a requirement to allow for the Right of Entry ( Condominium Act, 1998). In a condo, it is important to establish a culture of security. This can be done by:

  • Communicating information about relevant crime trends (such as break and enters) in the neighbourhood and in the building
  • Reminding residents not to allow individuals they do not know into the building
  • Reminding residents to use social media cautiously
    • Limit oversharing
    • Don’t post about being on vacation
    • Don’t advertise items of value in an easily traceable manner



Kristina Dudumas



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