Foil Impressioning Defeats Security Locks

Apparently it’s been around for fifteen years but using foil impressions to pick locks is new to us. This is similar to using bump keys but it works on locks that are supposedly much more secure. This method uses a heavy gauge aluminum foil to grab and hold the pins in the correct place for the lock to be turned. The foil is folded over and slits are cut where each pin will fall. It is then inserted into a lock on a tool shaped like a key blank. Jiggle the tool for a bit and the cylinder will turn. This just reminds us that we’re much more dependent on the good will of our fellow citizens to not steal our stuff, rather than the deterrent that a lock provides.

We’ve embedded a detail and fascinating demonstration of this method after the break. The materials in the video are from a Chinese-made kit. We’re not sure where you find these types of locks, but we don’t feel any less secure since our keys could be obtained from a distance anyway.

Update: Video now embedded after the break. The link is down but you can try the Google Cache version.


32 thoughts on “Foil Impressioning Defeats Security Locks

  1. I must tell a story about robbers and lock pickers. I used to live in a flat where the locks were laughable. I had a skeleton key lock under the handle and a pin tumbler lock higher on the door. These represented so low security that I usually not cared about locking the pin tumbler, knowing a burglar could open it in 5 minutes.

    I wasn’t burglarized, my neighbor was. I wonder why as one could enter easily in mine. The answer was simple. My neighbor had only one lock, it looked weaker to the burglars who just forced in.

    I learned something with that : people who have decided to be criminals often are not knowledgeable about security. Once they are set they will break in, break out, and bye. They are more afraid about your neighbors than about your locks.

  2. That is exactly the point of residential security:

    Make your place look harder to get into than the neighbour’s.

    No amount of security is going to keep a determined thief out, not unless you want to live in a bank vault… And even then…

  3. Two locks, alarm with motion and door detectors with a battery backup with phone line and GPRS alert that calls a security company.

    That’s what my grandparents use. I think they’re pretty safe.

  4. @Hackius

    Now all they have to worry about is a ‘hot’ burglary – where they are present at the time. alarm switched off (because they were eating dinner) knock on the door and stop them from reaching the alarm panel (or remote)

    There is no such thing as completely secure, but as alex said, make your place look as un-appealing as possible to a burglar and they’ll look for an easier target.

  5. The flip side of that is that you look like you have something to hide. A great example of this is people who put locks on tents at music festivals! The second that is seen people assume you have something worth securing and that little lock could cost you a slit cut in the side of the whole tent (or even the tent being stolen!)

  6. The best way to avoid criminal behaviour is to take away the reason for the criminal behaviour. Keep the poor from becoming so poor that they *need* to become criminal, and keep the rich from becoming so rich that they’re effectively taunting the poor to become criminal.

    I.e. find the perfect balance between rich and poor, instead of just already giving up before you started trying, and keeping a gaping cliff between the rich and poor.

    What you’re left with are the criminals who do it for the kick or other unreasonable reasons. Well, these people can be treated in a psychiatric institution.

    I know it sounds weird to the average American, but it works over here in Europe.

    Anyway, who would want to live in a fortress? Wasting your life away apart from the rest of humanity. Only people who are ready for psychiatric treatment.

    My parents have hardly ever locked their door in their life. And why should they? It’s easier to break a glass window than to pick the lock. Even burglars can use this simple type of lateral thinking :).

    Actually, the only thing that DOES keep most burglars away is a huge vicious-looking dog in the house. Even if the dog is the biggest wuss that ever existed, it’s appearance is enough to scare the shit out of any would-be burglar. :)

  7. @Peter de Vroomen
    I agree about the dog. I have a doberman with cropped ears its the meanest looking dog ever but in reality biggest wuss ever! My neighbors house was broken into multiple times mines never.

  8. @ Hackius I fooled a passive infrared motion detector (The norm for most security systems) by walking very slowly! Don’t sneeze or you’re screwed. And I saw something on mythbusters where they hid behind a fluffy blanket do dampen signals from a ultrasonic detector (Which apparently worked.).
    @Peter de Vroomen Did you see bowling for Columbine at the part where Michale Moore randomly walks into Canadian homes in Toronto and is greeted nicely. Moore is like the $*@% your doors are not locked aren’t you afraid!???

  9. Pretty much any lock can be picked in just a minute or two. So this is no big deal. But what people often overlook is that 99% of thieves don’t bother with picking locks. A brick through the window, or a crowbar to the door is so much easier for them, why waste the time? The only people who bother to pick locks are locksmiths, or secret agents who don’t want to leave any evidence that they were there.

  10. Peter must live in a very different Europe from the one that I’ve visited. Muggings, pickpockets, and hot burglaries abound in Western Europe, despite their pie-in-the-sky social programs. Some people are simply content with what they have, or can get legally, and some are not, and will take what they like.

  11. I agree with the dog, but not for the reason listed. Thieves biggest worries are not about your security, its about getting caught. They get caught by being noticed.

    A dog of any size that makes a lot of noise will get them noticed. I’ve seen studies that show they avoid houses with dogs, so its certainly a fact that they reduce break-ins.

    On a side note, recent studies have also proven that humans can read the basic emotions of dog barks (at a incredibly high accuracy rate), so it makes sense that a neighbor can probably tell the difference between a happy playful bark and a ‘hey there is something wrong here!’ bark. Heck another study showed that babies at 6 months old can discriminate the difference between a playful bark and an aggressive one.

  12. @Peter de Vroomen

    I suppose you never saw the Muslims rioting in France, burning down the orphanages for working mothers with the people inside? Or vicious assassination of the former Minister for the Environment of Sweden.

    And I suppose you never saw the nailbombs in shopping malls in Ireland? Or on trains in Spain? How about the race riots after the elections in the Netherlands? How about where they set a girl on fire in the UK?

    Those attacks had nothing to do with wealth disparity and everything to do with the fact that a small percentage of the population are vicious monsters. To pretend otherwise is like having sex without a condom or running Windows without an anti-virus. You’re acting like an irresponsible kid who thinks it won’t happen to them.

    Furthermore, using a dog as a surrogate for your aggressive feelings because you’re unable to grow up and take the responsibilities of an adult is dysfunctional and unfair to the dog.

  13. Woah, Peter de Vroomen’s kicked off some hatred.

    Chill out, Ugly American – highly descriptive name by the way, seems very appropriate.

    What have rioting asshats got to do with burglaries?

    Go and look at some stats, that burglary rates go up as disparity in wealth increases is well known and well accepted.

    And what are you wittering on about regards his dog?

    I suggest you go back to bed with your guns, safe in the knowledge that if anyone breaks into your house you can kill them.

  14. Let’s not let cultural differences regarding security beliefs obscure the point of this post: Locks are neat, and picking them is even neater.

    I love the look on someone’s face when you’ve shattered their illusion of security. An ex-girlfriend once got angry and hit me when I showed her how to bump pick. She said I was horrible. Glad she’s my ex.

  15. @bob

    The name is from the book.

    Somebody stealing my TV is not important at all compared to them harming a friend, relative or even a pet. If you go around loudly proclaiming that nobody in your neighborhood ever locks their doors, and some rapist overhears it and attacks your neighbor, you are partly to blame.

    The wealth disparity argument for crime is a popular assertion but what the stats actually say is that most crimes are committed within one’s own racial and socioeconomic circle.

    Locks are important to single working mothers who want to keep their children safe between the time they get home from school and the time she gets home from work. The very fact that we can get on the net at will and discuss locks as puzzles and toys means that we are not the target market for locks.

    On the one hand, articles like this show what’s wrong with existing locks and spur people to think of better ones. On the other hand someone else may see this and use it to harm somebody. It’s not the same as a PS3 hack.

  16. Some people live in good countries Ugly American? I guess you live in a shit hole. That is your take on the world. It’s not wrong but it is not the same case for everyone, everywhere. Are you saying you were in France, Sweden, Ireland, and the UK when all that shit unfolded before your very eyes? Were you there or did you just read the news like everyone else who heard about all this ancient history? Desperate people do desperate things (Blatant reference to the wealth disparity theory of crime (Der)). That is a irrefutable fact. Some people kill for food others for water. Why you ask? They can not afford it, but we all need it. Morale of the story; if you dangle bread in front of a starving man just out of his reach he will eventually try to kill you.

  17. Everyone, please, the point is lost in this argument.

    Locks are deterrents, not solutions. Done.

    As for your debates:
    Social programs and “safety nets” do not “fix” crime. Crime correlates with poverty, but even zero poverty would have crime. Likewise, that crime is concentrated within a socioeconomic group does not mean that crime is entirely separate from poverty – those who resort to crime due to poverty and lack of work opportunities don’t exactly have the means to get to – and then break successfully into – million dollar mansions.

    Let’s drop the “let’s bash every country that’s not my own” line. It’s a pointless exercise in petty nationalisms. Every place has its problems. Stop pretending your respective locations are superior – it’s baseless, subjective, and frankly, disgusting. I’ll say it again, petty nationalistic arguments are disgusting. Admit your own places have faults, and stop insulting one another. Here, I’ll start: During various periods in the last few years, more people have met violent deaths in Detroit than in Iraq.

  18. If wealth disparity is the root of all crime, then how do you explain people like Bernie Madoff and the guys at Goldman Sachs?

    A small % of the population are psychopaths. That’s reality. Pretending they’re not there won’t make them go away. Pretending they’re not there is what allows them to thrive.

    Most people are good and helpful. Most poor people are not killers and would be offended by claims that they can’t control themselves.

    The wealth disparity theory is exactly backwards. Poverty is a result of crime and corruption not the cause. People in corrupt areas don’t feel safe to do any extra work because somebody might take it away from them at any moment. The reason people don’t farm in Africa is not because they’re lazy but because either the government soldiers or the rebel soldiers will most likely steal the result of their labor. Sending them food aid won’t set them free. Soldiers most often steal it. People need to be able to defend themselves and keep the results of their own labor.

  19. @Ugly American. I failed to adequately emphasize that disparity was merely one of many causes of instability. I said it can be a cause of crime by necessity though it is not the only cause. I never said poor people were psychopaths who commit crimes (let alone destined to do so.). That idea was of your own genius invention. I said desperation can be a powerful motive. such as, live or die. Pick one. You would have picked live over die. No theory of crime fits everything. But severe wealth disparity… Does cause things that are considered to be crimes to happen. sorry I was being a bit of an asshat but someone has to do it. Since I was likely the most recent person to piss you off you’re rebuttal was probably directed at me. You did not specifically address to whom your argument was intended.

  20. interesting, but too much preparation needed. i just need to take my lockpicks and i can open pretty much any lock in a matter of minutes.

    the toothbrush lock pick is way better than this one i think.

  21. to the people that think there dogs are a sorce of protection…..a cross bow would be a quiet way to shut a dog or to up…. not that i would but once again ” why pic the lock just break the window or door”…= if ther is a alarm or threat…. disarm it as fast and quietly as posible…alarm = dog….hmmm sleeping meds in good food. the point is if you have say a huge dimond and a smart crimile wants it your going to have to do beter then a lock, dog, alarm… be creative thers always a way around it

  22. To all of you who have written with ideas on the assumtion of security, forget about what you believe. You are never really safe. It is true, a burgaler will always look for the easiest point of entry. He will always be concerned about a neighbor hearing him. If he hears a barking dog he’ll just stick him in the frig or in a cabinet. If he enters and hears a television on in one side of the house, he’ll just quietly rob the other side and slip away undetected. The grand majority of locks, whatever their brands, are usually pried from the door using a screwdriver just enough to be broken-off using a No.10 vicegrips and then manipulated with a simple screwdriver to gain entry. Those who use strong security gates to block the entry to their front doors are as well un protected. The most secure can be opened in 20 minutes or less. So in reallity all you are doing is to slow the intruder down. Bars on windows can broken open in less then 5 minutes using a large cresent wrentch. But keep trying, we love the effort.

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