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.

Automatic lock cracker makes breaking and entering a breeze


For most people, forgetting the combination on a lock means breaking out the bolt cutters and chopping off the lock. Some students at the [Olin College of Engineering] decided there was a far more elegant way to do the job, so they built an automated lock-cracking machine.

The machine consists of a clamp to hold the lock, a solenoid to pull the lock open, and a stepper motor to run through the combinations. Most of the processing is done on the attached computer, using software they created. The application will brute-force all of the possible combinations if you request it, but it also allows you to enter the first, second, or third numbers of the combination if you happen to remember them.

Once the machine is started, the motor begins spinning the lock and the solenoid yanks on the latch until the combination is discovered, which takes a maximum of about two hours to complete. The opening of the latch trips a limit switch and causes the mechanism to stop. A simple button press then returns the lock’s combination to the user.

Be sure to check out the video embedded below of the lock cracker in action.

[via Wired]

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