Closed on July 4th

tools of the trade for a locksmith

Ethical Lock-Pickers Are Helping to Increase Lock Security

It’s estimated that up to 1 million burglaries take place in the United States each year. And while only a fraction of property invasions involves manipulating locks to gain entry, lock security is an essential component to keeping a property safe. In other words, locks still matter – and you might be surprised to learn that many property owners are selecting low price, over high quality, when it comes to outfitting their homes and businesses with secure door locks. You also might be surprised to learn that there are “ethical lock-pickers” out there who actually take up the challenge of picking various types of locksets. They see it as a fun hobby or challenge. 

In this post, we’ll discuss the important role these ethical lockpickers can also play when it comes to security, as evidenced by a recent Bloomberg report, why you should take your home or businesses’ locks seriously and more. Here’s a look: 

Lock Basics: What You Need to Know 

All locks are not created equal. And there are a whole lot of different types of locks. Like we said in the introduction, while lock manipulations account for a small number of invasions in the grand scheme of things, quality, secure locks still represent a critical element of home and business security. While locks are intended to keep people, property and belongings safe and secure – they’re also intended to help “buy a property time.” That is, the longer it takes to manipulate a lock to gain entry, the more likely an intruder is to be exposed and their plot foiled. 

Locks are typically measured in three grades – Grade 1 being the most secure type of lock and Grade 3 the least. Grade 1 locks are tested to adequately withstand up to a million open-close cycles, up to eight jackhammer-like blows and several minutes of taking a bolt saw to it. Unfortunately for property owners, it’s estimated that Grade 3 locks are the most common in homes and businesses, which could represent a security liability. 

There are also a variety of different types of locks. From deadbolt locks to padlocks, keypad locks to smart locks, there’s no shortage of options these days to outfit an exterior door with. Despite all of the options, deadbolt door locks are widely considered to be among the most secure locks available. 

What’s an ‘Ethical Lock-Picker?’ 

There’s a clear distinction between curiosity and legality when it comes to lock picking. And while it’s legal to own a lock picking kit under most circumstances, it’s what you do with the lock picking kit that’s what really matters. Ethical lock-pickers abide by some key rules and regulations. For instance: 

  • They never pick a lock that they don’t own. 
  • They never pick a lock that they don’t have permission to pick. 
  • They never pick a lock that they rely on or that is in use. 

You could think of ethical lock-pickers as lock-picking hobbyists to an extent. They see lock-picking as an exercise, a challenge or part of solving a type of unconventional puzzle of sorts. And this hobby exploded during the pandemic when people were isolated within their homes and had a lot more time on their hands. 

How Ethical Lock-Pickers are Helping Manufacturers 

So how are ethical lock-pickers helping make locks more secure? The increased interest in lock-picking has helped hold manufacturers more accountable when it comes to creating and then testing locksets. And they’re doing this by posting demonstrations of their lock-picking abilities on social media and YouTube for anyone to view. With how easy some lock-pickers make it look, they’re somewhat holding lock manufacturers accountable and challenging them to take their locks to enhanced levels of quality. 

Another way ethical lock-pickers are helping manufacturers is by literally reaching out to them and describing vulnerabilities that they find in the locks they make. As detailed in the recent Bloomberg story, Dominic Villeneuve reached out to Schlage when, as an ethical lock-picker, he discovered a vulnerability in one of its lock models. As a result, Schlage created a solution to help address the vulnerability. It’s something that likely never would have been discovered if not for the persistence of an ethical lock-picker. Per the Bloomberg story, Villeneuve has also helped other manufacturers work on enhancements. 

How Ethical Lock-Pickers Pick a Door Lock 

Some people think it’s magic, but locksmiths are trained to pick door locks without damaging the lock itself. And, really, learning how to pick a door lock is not a secret either. There are several legitimate reasons why someone might need to pick a lock: 

  • Locksmithing: Professionals must learn and practice their craft. Learning lock-picking skills helps them to understand better the mechanics of locks and how they can be defeated when necessary. 
  • Lost or Forgotten Keys: This is one of the most common reasons. Knowing how to pick a lock can save you the time, money, and inconvenience of calling a locksmith if you’re locked out of your home or car. 
  • Hobby and Sport: Lockpicking has evolved as a popular hobby and competitive sport called “locksport.” Individuals enjoy the challenge it presents, like solving a puzzle. Various meetups, online forums, and competitions exist for enthusiasts to test their lock-picking skills. 
  • Emergency Situations: In specific emergency scenarios, when time is of the essence, such as a child locked in a room or a pet trapped behind a door, lock picking skills can come in handy and possibly prevent a dangerous situation. 
  • Home or Property Maintenance: If a lock gets stuck or the key breaks off inside, understanding how to pick a lock could save a costly repair or replacement. 
  • Careers in Security and Law Enforcement: Jobs in security consulting, forensic locksmithing, and law enforcement may require knowledge of lock picking for legal and beneficial purposes. Knowing how locks can be picked can contribute to designing more secure locks and security systems. 

It’s essential to remember that while there are many legitimate uses for lock picking, it should only be used legally and ethically. Specifically, only pick locks that you have the right to pick or have been given explicit permission to pick. 

Step 1: Apply Slight Pressure with the Tension Wrench

Insert the tension wrench into the lower part of the keyhole. Apply a slight amount of pressure in the direction the key would turn. Be mindful not to exert too much pressure as it could cause the driver pins to bind below the shear line, making it difficult to pick the lock. 

Step 2: Insert the Lock Pick

Gently insert the lock pick at the top of the keyhole and start feeling for the pins. Using a Bogota rake with its three ridges is recommended, as it proves to be successful on most locks. Move the pick to the back of the lock. 

Step 3: Rake Your Pick Back and Forth

While maintaining slight torque on your tension wrench, scrub your pick back and forth in the keyhole. Aim to lightly scrape the pins instead of pushing or pulling them. This method works best on a rake. As you begin feeling for the correct pin placement, you’ll get a pin or two right without exerting too much effort. When you get it right, a tiny click will signal that the pin is in place. 

Step 4: Repeat the Process

Continue with the previous step for each pin in the lock. Start from the back pin and work your way forward. Maintain the slight torque on your wrench and scrub the remaining pins until they’re all set. If no progress is made, you might have applied too much torque. In this case, let the pins reset and start over again, this time paying more attention to the amount of pressure applied. 

Step 5: Unlock the Door

Once the pins are all set correctly, the tension on the wrench will cause the cylinder to spin open, successfully picking the lock. 

Remember, lock picking requires a lot of practice and finesse. It’s more of an art than a science. You might face locks that require further finesse picking each pin one by one. In such cases, identify the most resistant pin stack, pick it first and repeat the process until all pins are picked. With time and experience, you’ll become proficient at picking most pin and tumbler locks. 

Tools Used by Locksmiths to Pick Door Locks 

Locksmiths have a variety of specialized tools to pick different types of door locks successfully. These include: 

  1. Hook Picks: These are used to pick individual pins, enabling exact precision with pin tumbler locks. 
  2. Ball Picks are usually used for wafer locks, such as those found on cabinets and lockers. They come in different sizes and shapes, like half-ball, snowman, and double-ball. 
  3. Diamond Picks: Instead of a single point like the hook pick, diamond picks have a wide flat point used to pick several pins at once in a lock. 
  4. Rake Picks: Used for ‘raking’ pin tumblers by quickly sliding the pick past all the pins, repeatedly in order to bounce the pins until they reach the shear line. 
  5. Tension Wrench or Torque Wrench: This is a must-have tool used to apply turning pressure on the lock while you’re moving the pins with the pick. It’s essentially a small, L-shaped piece of metal. 
  6. Decoder Pick: This is a special locksmith tool used to decode or read the cuts on a key to make a duplicate. 
  7. Bump Keys: These specially crafted keys are placed into the lock and bumped using a mallet or a ‘bump hammer.’ This causes the pins to jump and allows the lock to be turned and opened. 
  8. Pick Gun: This device precisely strikes all pins in a lock simultaneously, causing them to jump, and allowing the lock to be turned briefly. 
  9. Electronic Pick Gun: These are specialized tools that use vibrations to knock all the pins up simultaneously to allow a turn of the plug. 

Each tool requires a different level of skill and technique to use effectively. Locksmiths are trained in the proper utilization of these tools to safely and without damage pick various types of door locks. 

How to Prevent Having Your Lock Picked

To deter burglars from picking your door locks, here are the best methods to adopt:

  1. Opt for strong, anti-pick locks which are characterized by security pins, extra pin stacks, restrictive keyways, and superior quality components. Security pins resist lock-picking attempts, while added pin stacks prolong the picking process. Choose a deadbolt lock with an ANSI rating of Grade 1 or 2 for top security. Ensure your bolt length is 1″ for exterior doors. Among the best options is the Schlage B560 Deadbolt.
  2. Use deadbolt locks, especially favored by homeowners but troublesome for burglars due to their heavy-duty nature.
  3. Consider double-cylinder deadbolts that work with a key from both sides, useful for homes with nearby windows that might be broken for access.
  4. Incorporate video doorbells into your security system. Equipped with motion detection, night vision, and two-way communication, they enable visual monitoring and interaction with visitors without opening the door, providing a strong deterrent for potential criminals. There are numerous models without monthly fees that can meet your needs.

Contact Great Valley Lockshop Today 

For more information on your home or businesses’ locks and for an assessment on how secure they are, contact Great Valley Lockshop today. As a full-service locksmith, we can accurately assess the security of your home, business, vehicle or safe to determine where any security improvements can be made. We’ll also help you make these improvements. Contact us today for more information and to learn about how our “ethical lock-pickers” can help keep your property safe. 

Make sure that your door locks aren’t easily manipulated – contact us today to learn more about your locks and what we can do to help make your property more secure. 

Author Picture

Let’s Get You A Free Estimate

Discover what thousands of our customers already know: When you hire Great Valley Lockshop you can expect us to be prompt, passionate and genuinely enthusiastic about your project!

Member of ALOAAllegion Locksmith PartnerYelp Locksmith 5 StarsGoogle Locksmith 5 Stars

We are serious about privacy. We will never share your information with third parties. Please read our Privacy Policy for more information.

Great Valley Lockshop