I hadn't been doing so hot in high school (writing assembly for my TI-83's z80 was more fun than reading Shakespeare and doing derivatives), so my parents locked my laptop in the attic for me to focus on revising during that week.
Of course, I spent a few hours reading at the local library on lock picking, and managed to get my laptop from the attic on the first day (the lock was a fairly old model too, which helps). I spent the rest of the revision week writing C and hanging out in IRC :')
For the record, I did pretty well on the baccalauréat :)
Funnily enough, I learned C when I was supposed to be studying for the baccalauréat. I'd learned programming in BASIC for a casio calculator(mainly for making games and a few solvers for things that we were supposed to solve manually in exams but that were too tedious). A friend of mine linked me to http://siteduzero.com/ (apparently it's changed to http://fr.openclassrooms.com/ recently) and I ended up not studying. That really hurt me in History, Geography and Biology(which require a lot of memorization) but otherwise I breezed through everything else.
PS: I'm not in France but in a country where the french baccalauréat is considered equivalent to the state-mandated exams(Lebanon, used to be under French mandate).
The word, not the fact you've just described my life.
Safe to say that a huge proportion of my current income is directly due to "productive procrastination" :)
I also cover disc detainers, and a bunch of other stuff. I'm shooting a new series on lock forensics presently, just got a great microscope that can take my DSLR for high def microscopy.
To find you on Hacker News is a pleasant surprise =] Keep up the good work!
It was invented by Leo Raskevicius, who sadly passed away years ago. In his original patent he actually made provisions for a magnetic version as well. Brilliant guy. Sadly the lock isn't made anymore.
you can actually tell which ones were picked.
DEFCON 19: "Key Impressioning"
unlike a credit card it doesn't snap or break very easily - the type of plastic will become softer when placed under pressure and is very flexible but strong - if you continue to force it in the right area it will work its way around hard corners and into tiny gaps until there is enough pressure to pop the bolt. when the bolt has an edge that is sloped towards you it will pop on the first push (the way i see most 'yale style' locks fitted on doors that open inwards - i.e. most front doors)
it takes an exceptionally tightly fitted door frame to prohibit this (e.g. one with brushes or hermetic seals)
the one time i couldn't break into my own home doing this was because there was a brush fitted down the side of the door - fortunately there was not one fitted in the letter box, so i found a long spanner at a nearby construction site and then spent the next four hours of my life whacking the mechanism from through the letterbox blindly until i caught the handle the right way and the door popped open...
Another use for the coke-bottle strip is with padlocks - simply push inside and it opens using the method you describe on most of them.
In fact there are so many ways to get round a lock that going to all of the trouble of picking it is rather quaint. Here are some common things that happen:
Emergency services - they go straight for the 'Big Key' which is that battering ram we have all seen on TV.
Bicycle thieves - no interest in the lock. Bolt croppers cost less than a good lock and they are far quicker at getting the job done reliably.
Car thieves - break into the house and steal the keys.
Regular folk locked out of homes/cars - call the locksmith or simply break some glass.
If you need to gain entry surreptitiously (and not damage a lock) it can be far easier to use social engineering to temporarily obtain keys, e.g. from an employer, then get them cut in a matter of minutes at some place around the corner.
Alternatively an impression can be made in 'plasticine' or a photo taken. A friendly locksmith can sell you the blank, and, with some time with a needle file, a key made.
Although fun can be had picking locks, 'in the wild' it rarely happens because brute force or a bit of Coke can is usually far more effective.
it took a lot of effort, my intent was to hit the far side of the spinny thing and hope that the momentum would be enough to get through the catch and click it - i did this by extending my arm through the letterbox as far as possible then angling the spanner back and twisting my wrist to provide the impacts - feeling through the spanner if i was hitting anything and trying to guess from the response if it was the right thing. i found the right thing quickly by feeling around it and working out that it wobbled and made little clicks in the right ways.
the biggest problem was that the spanner was quite fantastically heavy when wielded this way - although the impact that knocked it open was not especially hard or directed I was quite tired by that point and it was a pleasant surprise when it popped open so i can't honestly say it was the technique that worked more than the determination. my arm was struggling to continue raising the spanner and i was probably 20 minutes at most away from complete exhaustion and giving up... my arm was quite fantastically stiff and painful the next day - both the elbow and the wrist, and lingered a couple more days after that as a mild irritation.
I had no expectation that it would actually work it was just desperation... but it was 2am and nobody inside would answer their phone... I was not in a good enough situation to afford an expensive locksmith and similarly breaking the door in was not an option.
Abloy also claims it's pick proof. Whether that will remain true in the future I'm not sure, but I do know that at the very least it has yet to be successfully picked. If someone did figure out a way it would likely be extremely difficult to do in practice.
After watching some videos that showed just how easy it is to simply kick a door in, another thing I did was replace my strike plate with a heavier duty one, and replace the worthless 3/4" screws that "hold" most strike plates in with 4" screws that actually go into the 2x4's of the house frame.
This is good advice. I did this on my own door frame after being broken into on the first day where the door had simply been kicked in. I can not kick the door in now - I tried. Although the quality of the door is important too - mine bends really quite far before breaking. :)
If you are really security conscious and you don't have them already - I suggest brushes at the door frame edge and the letterbox to prevent approaches other than picking.
They look something like this: http://hostedmedia.reimanpub.com/TFH/Step-By-Step/FH11JAU_DO...
But I rent so I hesitate because the film obviously has to be custom cut and I doubt it can be removed in a single piece after being installed anyway. I'm a little less worried about the windows though because only 1/4 of unauthorized entries are through windows, and window entry is (often) louder, more obvious, and takes a little longer to get through vs. quietly picking or bumping a lock or swiftly kicking the door in and entering quickly.
Yeah, I think it only protects the glass, but I believe there are other things you can do to protect the window from being opened another way.
Insert the binder clip wire, apply some torque, and scrub the pointy end of the triangle on your former paper clip against the pins. The lock will turn in seconds. You may need to adjust the shape of the triangle somewhat to achieve best results.
Popping open your first lock with entirely improvised materials is a powerful reminder that cheap locks are little deterrent to anyone but the most casual and unmotivated intruders, just like privacy locks in bathrooms.
Those little boxes are designed to prevent me from swiping your $50 bill in your drawer when your back is turned or you step out of the room for 30 seconds.
If you're at all interested in picking, do yourself a favor and get this practice lock for ~$40 it is amazing:
Also, I highly recommend getting on the TOOOL email list for your area.
in the SF bay it is email@example.com - great group and good list, although I mostly lurk.
Here are some of my picks.... ignore the lame embellishments; I am not very artistic :)
Also, just owning the tools is illegal in some states.
I disagree. Raking has opened a lot (most I've tried) of locks in my experience. So, I'd say I'm pretty skilled at picking locks.
Me too! My success rate is over 90% for unlocked doors. Locked ones are harder.
Can you be a good programmer without being the best programmer or even a world class programmer?
If you want to pick every lock available to you and you can do so quickly and successfully, you're a skilled lock picker. Buying harder locks just to show you can pick them is an academic feat, not necessarily a real-world skill. Skill is just aptitude in doing something successfully.
"A programmer" is not necessarily "A person who knows Ada".
You're trying very hard to play semantics and it's not working for you. You don't get to call yourself a skilled swordsman because you sliced up some virtual goblins, simply because the only things you felt like slicing up were virtual goblins. That's not what skill is.
Neither does skill require some asinine qualification of "real-worldness". We can generally agree that many skills are non-transferable or narrowly applicable, such as skill in playing Starcraft or picking "academic" locks. But you're not a skilled carpenter or metalworker if you go out and buy furniture from IKEA. A person who walks casually across the stage doesn't qualify as a skilled dancer unless he actually does some dancing.
"Buying harder locks just to show you can pick them" is akin to "choosing a more difficult project to code up" or "requiring that your algorithm be more performant than it was previously".
Saying that raking locks is skill at lockpicking is like saying you're good at breaking into computers because you have a sledgehammer and a knowledge of where the data center is. Or brute-forcing a password. Yes, it works. That's great. "Doing something successfully" isn't skill.
[by the way, "Hello World" in C is a surprising amount of work. For example, version 2.9 is over 270 lines, and saw over 40 revisions for the main file (http://git.savannah.gnu.org/cgit/hello.git/log/src/hello.c)]
Which is just completely silly. Who is going to pick the lock on somebody's house to break in? The idea of the highly-skilled locksmith cat-burglar is complete fiction.
Wait, why wouldn't this be better than smashing a window to get in?
Still, banning tools is not the greatest idea.
I was disappointed at how easy it ended up being. Every lock I purchased I could pick within a few seconds with a rake, or maybe 60 seconds with a hook, so I just gave it up.
I splurged once and got one of the top brands meant for homes. It took more concentration and you couldn't just rake it, but I still got to where I could open it in under a minute.
I'm talking about maybe 20 hours total spent on developing this skill. A complete novice, only understanding how to use the tools, can open any wally world bought padlock with a rake in seconds.
Yes, there is a provision in state laws against possession of "thieves tools."
I bought two locks, diassembled then and reassembled leaving aside a number of pins out.
So I had a lock with only one pin, one with two, one with 4 and one with all the 5 pins.
It helped a lot because you learn to feel when the pin stucks on the open position and also to learn about how much pressure you need to put on the tensor. Too much and it will prevent the pins to go down. Too little and the pins will not stuck on the outer frame.
Ahh, and ofcourse, see the lock diassembled over my desk, and reassemble it gave a lot more insight on how it works than to just watch some animations.
Good presentation on types of locks and approaches to picking: http://www.blackhat.com/presentations/bh-europe-08/Deviant_O...
And a guy who knows a ton about picking: http://deviating.net/lockpicking/slides.html
The order the pins set in will be unique to the lock, not a universal sequence. In fact, the order will change depending on the direction you pick, and even two locks pinned exactly the same will likely set pins in a different order.
This is called the "tentative method" and it was pioneered in the late 1700s. This idea of tension & manipulation can be applied to nearly every mechanical locking system (there are a very small number of exceptions).
You apply very light pressure to the wrench, which turns the plug, which collides with the weirdest pin out. There are circumstances in which you may bind multiple pins. If the lock is made to absurdly high standards (and I mean lock manufacturer playing a prank on lockpickers level of high standards) or if you apply your tension too heavily.
Watch this video to see what I mean: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNKvPS1ac6E&list=SP66CD42F86F...
The first several pins in the lock, as I am searching for the binding pin, are under no pressure whatsoever and can move freely between the upper and lower pin chambers.
Also - noticed you are at Quora, I actually write about lockpicking in film and television over there from time to time: http://tvpicking.quora.com
Lock engineers have incredibly sharp minds.
Unrelated, are there any locks which use full length pins that are hollow and encapsulate the spring? It seems like a big source of the misalignment that allows setting is from the pin itself being able to move off its axis where it attaches to the spring.
There's a great example whos name is escaping me at the moment...its a South American company. Anyway, they have a lock with two rows of pins, one normally aligned and the other coming in from the side. However, there isn't as much room horizontally (you'll notice most plugs are located toward the bottom of the housing, yet centered horizontally) so they use the encapsulating pins to make up for the lost space.
That's one of the most interesting challenges in lock engineering, actually. There are a handful of standard formats for locks around the world, and whatever you build needs to fit within those agreed-upon (and very compact) formats, or you won't enjoy wide adoption of your concept.
The pins aren't in a perfect straight line, nor are the holes perfectly uniform, due to the machine tolerances. We're talking on the order of microns here, but that's enough.
Turning the slug will thus cause one pin to bind against the cylinder first, and as soon as it clear, the slug turns ever so slightly, keeping the top pin from being able to fall back down (while the lower one can drop back down).
The torque is not variable, the order that you press the pins is.
The older Abloy locks from 60's/70's can apparently be picked if you're really skillful but it takes a lot of time and effort, and this was never common knowledge.
I read about hackers who were picking locks in the USA, or just outside of Scandinavia, and how pin tumbler locks work, and realized that those would indeed be plausibly pickable but I never had access to them in practice. I think probably could've found some if I really, really wanted to but nobody was using them for anything serious so learning to pick something considered as toy locks wasn't very motivating.
What are your thoughts?
It doesn't cover sale / purchase, just ownership by state.
I still remember a fun talk I heard about the safety of gun safes (or lack thereof). They cracked it and told the manufacturers how easy it was and got a reply along the lines of "well maybe it's easy for a specialist like you with good equipment but it's safe enough for normal folks". Next slide contained a video of a 6 year old kid (highly trained security specialist) cracking the thing with a straw (specialized security equipment).
1. get any torque wrench (L-shapped metal that goes in the keyhole)
2. get any triangular pick (any thin metal that goes in the hole, saw a triangular tip)
3. insert the pick as far as it goes, apply some tension to the torque wrench, pull the pick out it pressing against the lock pins.
4. repeat #3 until lock is open. you will usually ram the lock like there is no tomorrow, so some graphite or other kind of lubricant may help.
It's really cool seeing people take an interest in picking, but just wanted to point out that professional & hobbyist picking is completely different.
A professional’s first priority normally is to get into the property, damage generally not being a huge issue so the approach changes dramatically.
First you try all the doors, as you would be surprised by how many people just simply don't lock their doors whilst making a judgment what will be the easiest entrance.
Then you target the door with the worst lock, normally a UPVC door with a euro cylinder and use an electric pick gun to give it a quick blast. This gets you in within 5 minutes 90% of the time. 
If the pick gun doesn't work you snap the cylinder in the door and replace the lock for a total cost of about £5 
The hardest part of the whole job is when you have to identify a mortice lock in order to bypass it and knowing if it's worth an attempt at a pick. (Simple 3 lever locks are worth a pick first before a drill)
Once the lock has been identified though it's easy to drill, you get your template out , mark up the holes and drill out the stump
There are also other methods and the general gist of the story is you use the method which takes the least amount of time with doesn't leave an unreasonable amount of cost!
Some other methods/products to look at which are interesting and commonly used:
- Mica, a specifically made plastic for slipping rim latches, most commonly referred to as "yale locks": http://uklockpickers.co.uk/mica-shim.html
- Letterbox tool, very basic (its just posh string on a stick) but also very effective at knocking off deadbolts or opening a latch that won't slip: http://www.walkerlocksmiths.co.uk/bypass-tools/letterbox-too...
- Try out keys for mortice locks with a low number of levers: http://www.walkerlocksmiths.co.uk/mortice-picks-tools/try-ou...
- Plug spinner for when you pick the lock the wrong way: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUmCUj44BPg
Anyway, this is a crazy hard skill to master, simply because of the feel required to actually push each pin in place, and the fact that you're doing it blindly and often without so much as audible feedback from the lock.
You definitely need to practice to get good, and there are all types of funky locks outside of your home country