Cracking A Combo Lock In Under 30 Seconds

Forget the combination to your combo lock? Well if you’ve got a 3D printer, an Arduino, a servo and a stepper motor handy — you can build your own Combo Breaker pretty easily. It’s capable of solving any Master combination lock in 8 tries or less.

The creator [Samy Kamkar] is a privacy and security researcher, who absolutely loves finding holes in security. We actually just heard from him at our very own Hack a Day Prize: Los Angeles event, where he talked about his wireless keyboard sniffer he built into a cellphone charger.

He’s previously shown us how to crack a combo lock in 8 tries or less using an online calculator he made. This project is just an extension of that to automate the whole process.

As always he gives an extremely thorough explanation of the project in his build log video — including designing the 3D printed parts! If you wanna build your own it’ll cost just under $100 and you can grab all the necessary info and source files from his GitHub.

[Thanks for the tip Justin!]

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Teardown: An Electronic Master Lock

[rohare] has an interesting teardown for us over on the keypicking lock picking forums. It’s a Masterlock combination lock – specifically the Masterlock 1500eXD – and yes, it’s a completely electronic lock with buttons and LEDs. Think that’s the mark of a terrible lock? You might be surprised.

The first impressions of this lock were surprisingly positive. It was heavy, the shackle doesn’t move at all when you pull on it. Even the buttons and LEDs made sense. Once the back of the lock was drilled open, things got even more impressive. This lock might actually be well-built, with a ‘butterfly’ mechanism resembling a legendary padlock, actuated by a small but sufficient motor. Even the electronics are well-designed, with the programming port blocked by the shackle when it’s closed. [rohare] suspects the electronics aren’t made by Masterlock, but they are installed in a very secure enclosure.

The teardown concludes with a fair assessment that could also be interpreted as a challenge: [rohare] couldn’t find any obvious flaws to be exploited, or a simple way to break the lock. He concludes the most probable way of breaking this lock would be, “knowing some trick of logic that bypasses the codes on the electronics”. That sounds like a good enough challenge for us, and we’re eagerly awaiting the first person to digitally unlock this physical lock.

3D Printing Lock Picks

Over at the 23B hackerspace in Fullerton, CA, [Dano] had an interesting idea. He took a zip tie, and trimmed it to have the same profile of a lock pick. It worked. Not well, mind you, but it worked. After a few uses, the pick disintegrated, but still the concept of picks you can take through a TSA checkpoint was proven.

A few days after this demonstration, [C] realized he had a very fancy Objet 3D printer at work, and thought printing some pics out would be an admirable goal. After taking an image of some picks through the autotracer in Solidworks, [C] had an STL that could be printed on a fancy, high-end 3D printer. The printer ultimately used for these picks was a Objet 30 Pro, with .001″ layer thickness and 600dpi resolution. After receiving the picks, [C] dug out an old lock and went to town. The lock quickly yielded to the pick, and once again the concept of plastic lock picks was proven.

Although the picks worked, there were a few problems: only half the picks were sized appropriately to fit inside a lock. Two picks also broke within 15 minutes, something that won’t happen with traditional metal picks.

Still, once the models are figured out, it’s easy to reproduce them time and time again. A perfect lock pick design is then trivial, and making an injection mold becomes possible. They might still break, but they’ll be far easier to manufacture and simple to replace.

3D Printed Bump Keys

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!


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

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


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…