3D Printed Bump Keys

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Getting past a locked door is easy if you have the right tools. It’s just a matter of knowing how to adjust the pins inside to an even level while turning the mechanism at the same time when everything is perfectly in place. That’s the beauty of a bump key. You never have to see the actual key or what it looks like. And with a simple hit to the back of the key, and bumping it just enough, the lock can magically be opened.

Lock picking items like this can be ordered online for a couple of dollars, or as [Jos Weyers] and [Christian Holler] showed in a recent Wired article, alternatively you can print your own at home. The video of these 3D printed keys (which can be viewed below) attempts to prove that a person can unlock a door with plastic, which was a little bit surprising to us because it seems like the edges would break off right away. But as it turns out, a thin plastic bump key can be made and does function. Not sure how long these keys can last though, but sometimes all you really need is a one time use when trying to open a specific, tricky lock.

As the article states, “Weyers and Holler aren’t trying to teach thieves and spies a new trick for breaking into high-security facilities; instead, they want to warn lockmakers about the possibility of 3-D printable bump keys so they might defend against it.” Although this information is geared towards lockmakers, we see our Hackaday readers finding this data useful as well. Organizers of hackerspaces who hold regular lock-picking events might want to print their own keys and teach classes centered around security. The uses for this are boundless in regards to educating the public about how locks truly work.

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Turning Street Sweeper Bristles into Lock Picking Tools…For Science!

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In between writing for Hackaday, most of us (if not all of us) like to design projects on our own, creating whatever might come to mind. I, for instance, enjoy experimenting with lock picking techniques at industrial, gritty, and real warehouses in Southern California learning how to utilize the resources there, turning spare parts into something completely different.

One such skill I learned is how easy it is to make lock picking sets from discarded scraps of metal. The documentation is found on a personal blog of mine called HackerTrips (we cover our own stuff sometimes). It contains several photos and descriptions of the process involved which I picked up thanks to a hackerspace in Fullerton where local makers dream up all kinds of interesting projects.

The project starts out by walking on the streets, which is a rarity these days. This is because the general modes of transportation now are either a car, a bus, a subway, a train, a bike, or a plane, which puts the attention on the destination at hand rather than peering into the fractures of the road. This means that a lot of the time, people don’t notice the hidden treasures found on the side of the street, including the street sweeper bristles that have been knocked off their edges.

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Paperclip Lock Picking Sets

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Lockpicking has become a trademark skill of hackers all across the world, and is regularly taught at hackerspaces and maker faires. But a lot of the time, the sets have already been made or bought online somewhere. However, [Sean] has demonstrated how to create a lock picking set with ordinary paperclips in the video embedded at the end of this post. Wikihow also has these awesome instructions on how to build them.

What’s great is that the material for these picks are easily found. There are other ways to fashion a set together. For example, street sweeper bristles can be used. And electrical metal tape is a good material as well, but these paperclip sets are, by far, the most accessible. Pretty much anywhere that has office stationary supplies will have mounds of these little metal clips lying around.

But how well do they work? Have you made a paperclip lock picking set before?

If so, let us know in the comments, and tell us how well they did.

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Key Cutting with a CNC Mill

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Keys cost like what, $2 to copy at a locksmith? But where’s the fun in that? Here’s an easy way to cut your own keys using a CNC mill!

[Bolsterman] now “works” for a real estate company that rents out various properties. Whenever someone moves out, the locks need to be changed ASAP. They use Schlage locks, which can be re-keyed to any pin combination. New keys are typically cut with a punch or a key cutting machine — he actually had one years ago, but got rid of it. Not wanting to buy a new one for his new job at the real estate company, he decided to see how hard it would be to turn his small desktop CNC into his own personal key cutting machine.

All it took for [Bolsterman] to turn his mill into a key cutting machine was a 3/8th 90° countersink bit with the end ground to a flat approximately 0.055″ across (0.035″ is the width of a factory key, but a bit of leeway makes it easier to make the key). Then you simply zero the mill off of the shoulder of the key, and using the handy Schlage pin chart (included in the original link), cut the grooves!

To automate all of this, [Torrie Fischer] created a python script for generating the GCode  for keys based on [Bolsterman's] technique — it’s hosted over at Noisebridge’s Wiki — check it out!

But if all that seems like too much effort, you could just print a new key instead…

Hack some Picks

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You know you can make your own lock picks out of cheapo carbon steel hacksaw blades, right? So what if you’ve tripped over this hack on every website that also tells you to read and worship the MIT Guide to Lock Picking; ’tis the season to pick up a new hobby now that many of us have some extra holiday free time. Unlike the authentic hand-crafted macrame indoor hanging vertical tomato garden you bought for that girl you’re trying to impress, hacksaw blades won’t cut into your purchasing power. Also, believe it or not, although we have thirteen picking hacks that are sitting in the “lockpicking” category, this isn’t one of them.

Though the guide chose to use existing picks as a template, there are plenty you can find online. After tracing the pick, the next step is to secure the hacksaw blade and carve out the excess with a rotary tool, then grind down the edges to remove any sharp bits. We recommend that you’re careful not to get the blade too hot here or you’ll alter its crystalline structure: perhaps one of our blacksmith-savvy readers can better explain what you should aim for and avoid when working with carbon steel. As usual, wear the necessary safety headgear: your eyes are valuable and you’ll need them to watch the video after the break.

What do you think? Should we make an effort at reviving the Lock Picking category? We know a lot of hackerspaces have lock picking events if you want to get into the dark art. Help us get things rolling by sending in tips recapping those events, as well as anything else that fits this theme.

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Making keys after the apocalypse

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Making keys is an amazing art with a lot of skill and technique involved. For those of you living in a post-apocalyptic world, [Dan] has a much simpler solution to the problems of having one too few keys for your locks and deadbolts – just cast them out of scrap with the power of the sun.

To make the mold of the key, [Dan] is using a two-piece plaster of paris mold. First, a thick layer of plaster is laid down in a small container and the key floated on the surface. After drying, sprues are put in with clay and the key embedded in a curing plaster block. After a few hours, a proper mold is created ready to receive molten metal.

The casting material is zinc – not as hard as the original steel key, but more than strong enough to turn a lock. This zinc is melted in a steel and plaster crucible with a gigantic fresnel lens.

As for the utility of this method of copying keys after the apocalypse, we’ll have to wonder how practical this method is. A giant fresnel lens isn’t just something you randomly find unless you’re going house to house looking for projection TVs, and finding a can of mold release after the end of the world is beyond credulity. That said, it’s a cool demonstration of metal casting that can be easily accomplished at home or at any hackerspace.

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Ask Hackaday: Can you steal a car with a mini tesla coil?

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Last week we caught wind of a piece from the Today Show that shows very technically minded thieves stealing cars with a small device. Cops don’t know how they’re doing it, and of course the Today show (and the Hackaday comments) were full of speculation. The top three theories for how these thieves are unlocking car doors are jamming a keyless entry’s ‘lock signal’, a radio transmitter to send an ‘unlock’ code, or a small EMP device touched to the passenger side door to make it unlock.

That last theory – using a small EMP device to unlock a car’s door – got the attention of someone who builds mini EMP devices and has used them to get credits on slot machines. He emailed us under a condition of anonymity, but he says it’s highly unlikely a mini EMP device would be able to activate the solenoid on a car door.

This anonymous electromagnetic wizard would like to open up a challenge to Hackaday readers, though: demonstrate a miniature EMP device able to unlock an unmodified car door, and you’ll earn the respect of high voltage tinkerers the world over. If you’re successful you could always sell your device to a few criminal interests, but let’s keep things above board here.

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