IButton Is Opening Doors At The TkkrLab

Finding alternative ways to unlock doors is a favorite hacker pastime. TkkrLab recently took on the challenge themselves. The hackerspace, which is located in the Netherlands, faced a problem common to communal workshops; how could they manage keyed access for a large number of members? The metal keys for the door are special, and cannot be cheaply duplicated. To further compound the issue, they are not the only tenants in the building so they can’t replace the lock with one that uses less-expensive keys. So they decided to add an electronic solution.

They first looked at a method for electronically opening the door. Often, this comes in the form of an electronic strike, but rather than alter the door jamb, they replaces the latching mechanism. The electronic latch was compatible with the original cylinder, which means the old keys still work in it. You can see the new assembly above. Just to the left of the lock is an iButton reader. We’ve seen this hardware in projects many times before. It’s cheap, and easy to work with. Now TkkrLab issues an iButton to each member, and can keep track of who is coming in door.

25 thoughts on “IButton Is Opening Doors At The TkkrLab

  1. I too am confused at why there are what appears to be screws accessible to what appears to be the outside of the building.

    I would like to see a fingerprint build for something like this.

  2. A friend of mine did this for years at his last house.

    He put the iButton reader next to the door frame under the doorbell then used a solenoid latch in the doorframe so he didn’t have to modify the door at all.

    It worked fantastically! :-)

  3. @RicoElectrico – likely nothing. The system requires a microcontroller or computer to read the code on the button and validate it before popping the latch.

    And yes they should have used security screws at least just to prevent casual tampering.

  4. If you see the images carefully, removing the front panel won’t allow to open the door, it only would be possible to remove the ibutton reader.

    They use a panel to be able to mount the reader in it.

  5. The panel is indeed only for mounting the reader, removing it will not help to open the door or lock.

    Also using a bus pirate or any other device to emulate the iButton will not get you far, if any invalid code is read there is a time out of 15 seconds so you could try 240 codes an hour or 5760 a day. this is not very helpful with a code consisting of 64 bits…

  6. 1 – People. you often forget that this is a quick hack, they were not designing some super-secure lock that will be used on fort knox :P
    2 – I would have go with RFID… easier to hide :D

  7. You could also have a webcam hooked up which takes a snapshot whenever there is any activity on the reader (legitimate iButton, banned/unrecognised iButton, BusPirate or piezo lighter).

  8. @andrew, sure but you could put your finger on the web cam lens or a piece of masking tape, or chewing gum, or.. you get the point. As YaBa said, this is a quick hack, not the entrance to fort knox. If the point was to hack this I would surreptitiously* read someone’s iButton with a bus pirate then Bob’s your uncle.

    *if that seems too far fetched, then the thinks about the exposed screws, makes mounting a stealth monitor in parallel with the iButton receptacle behind the metal plate to capture all button scans.

  9. Good work!
    We are using a similar iButton setup at our hackerspace.

    No it is not completely secure. But they again neither is an actual key.
    But when it comes right down to it no door will keep someone out who wants to get in.
    So this is not a security system, it is an access system.
    Anyone who has managed a door with dozens of people using keys knows that when someone loses their key it can be a big pain and cost.
    Someone lose their iButton; who cares just take them out of the system.
    Don’t even talk to me about RFID! I have not seen a more useless technology for door access.
    10 times more expensive than iButton. Plus you can easily hack in to RFID by just listening…

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