Lockpicking is more of an art than a science: it’s probably 10% knowledge and 90% feeling. Only practice will teach you how much torque to apply to the cylinder, how to sense when you’ve pushed a pin far enough, or what it feels like when a pin springs back. Surely a robot would never be able to replicate such a delicate process, wouldn’t it?
Well, not according to [Lance] over at [Sparks and Code], who thought that building a lock picking robot would be an interesting challenge. He started out with a frame to hold a padlock and a servo motor to apply torque. A load cell measures the amount of force applied. This helps to keep the lock under a constant amount of tension as each pin is picked in succession. Although slow, this method seemed to work when moving the pick manually.
The difficult part was automating the pick movement. [Lance] built a clever system driven by two motors that would keep the pick perfectly straight while moving it horizontally and vertically. This was hard enough to get working correctly, but after adding a few additional clamps to remove wobble in the leadscrew, the robot was able to start picking. A second load cell inside the pick arm would detect the amount of force on each pin and work its way across the lock, pin by pin.
At least, that was the idea: as it turned out, simply dragging the pick across all pins in one go was enough to open the lock. A much simpler design could have achieved that, but no matter: designing a robot for all these intricate motions was a great learning experience anyway. It also gave [Lance] a good platform to start working on a more advanced robot that can pick higher-quality locks in which the dragging technique doesn’t work.
We haven’t come across lockpicking robots before; perhaps the closest equivalent would be this 3D-printed Snap Gun. If you’re interested in all aspects of locks and how to apply them, check out our Physical Security Hack Chat with Deviant Ollam.
Continue reading “This 3D Printed Robot Can Actually Pick Locks”
Car keys these days are remarkably complex beasts. Covered in buttons and loaded with security transponders, they often cost hundreds of dollars to replace if you’re unlucky enough to lose them. However, back in the day, keys used to just be keys — a hunk of metal in a mechanical pattern to move some levers and open a door. Thus, you could reshape a wrench into a key for an old car if that was something you really wanted to do.
The concept is simple. Take a 12mm ratcheting wrench, and shape the flat section into a profile matching that of a key for an older car without any electronic security features. The first step is to cut down the shaft, before grinding it down to match the thickness and width of the original key.
The profile of the key is then drawn onto the surface, and a Dremel used with a cutting disc to create the requisite shape. Finally, calipers are used to mark out the channels to allow the key to slide into the keyway, before these are also machined with the rotary tool.
Filing and polishing cleans up the final result to create a shiny, attractive ratchet wrench key. Even better, it does a great job of opening the car, too.
Similar machining techniques can be used to duplicate a key from just a photo (something I did back in 2019 to prank my friend). Alternatively, 3D printing can be great for reproducing even high-security keys. Video after the break.
Continue reading “Making A Car Key From A Ratcheting Wrench”
Every time manufacturers bring a new “unpickable” lock to market, amateur and professional locksmiths descend on the new product to prove them wrong. [Shane] from [Stuff Made Here] decided to try his hand at designing and building an unpickable lock, and found that particular rabbit hole to be a lot deeper than expected. (Video, embedded below.)
Most common pin tumbler locks can be picked thanks to slightly loose fits of the pins and tiny manufacturing defects. By lifting or bumping the pins while putting tension on the cylinder the pins can be made to bind one by one at the shear line. Once all the pins are bound in the correct position, it can be unlocked.
[Shane]’s design aimed to prevent the pins from being set in unlocked position one by one, by locking the all pins in whatever position they are set and preventing further manipulation when the cylinder is turned to test the combination. In theory this should prevent the person doing the picking from knowing if any of the pins were in the correct position, forcing them to take the difficult and time-consuming approach of simply trying different combinations.
[Shane] is no stranger to challenging projects, and this one was no different. Many of the parts had to be remade multiple times, even with his well-equipped home machine shop. The mechanism that holds the pins in the set position when the cylinder is rotated was especially difficult to get working reliably. He explicitly states that this lock is purely an educational exercise, and not commercially viable due to its mechanical complexity and difficult machining.
A local locksmith was unsuccessful in picking the lock with the standard techniques, but the real test is still to come. The name [LockPickingLawyer] has probably already come to mind for many readers. [Shane] has been in contact with him and will send him a lock to test after a few more refinements, and we look forward to seeing the results! Continue reading “Making A “Unpickable” Lock”
If you are smart, you wouldn’t hand your house key over to a stranger for a few minutes, right? But every time you use your key to unlock your door, you are probably broadcasting everything an attacker needs to make their own copy. Turns out it’s all in the sound of the key going into the lock.
Researchers in Singapore reported that analyzing metallic clicks as the key slides past the pins gives them the data they need to 3D print a working key. The journal published research is behind a paywall, but there is a copy on co-author [Soundarya Ramesh’s] website which outlines the algorithm used to decode the clicks of key teeth on lock pins into usable data.
The attack didn’t require special hardware. The team used audio capture from common smartphones. While pushing your phone close to the lock while the victim inserts a key might be problematic, it isn’t hard to imagine a hacked phone or smart doorbell picking up the audio for an attacker. Long-range mikes or hidden bugs are also possible.
There are practical concerns, of course. Some keys have a plateau that causes some clicks to skip, so the algorithm has to deal with that. It sounds like the final result be a small number of key possibilities and not just converge on one single key, but even if you had to carry three or four keys with you to get in, it is still a very viable vulnerability.
The next step is to find a suitable defense. We’ve heard that softening the pins might reduce the click, but we wondered if it would be as well to put something in that deliberately makes loud clicks as you insert the key to mask the softer clicks of the pins.
While a sound recording is good, sometimes a picture is even better. Of course, if you want to go old school, you can 3D print your lockpicks.
Continue reading “Stealing Keys From The Sound Of The Lock”
We are continuously inspired by our readers which is why we share what we love, and that inspiration flows both ways. [jetpilot305] connected a Rothult unit to the Arduino IDE in response to Ripping up a Rothult. Consider us flattered. There are several factors at play here. One, the Arduino banner covers a lot of programmable hardware, and it is a powerful tool in a hardware hacker’s belt. Two, someone saw a tool they wanted to control and made it happen. Three, it’s a piece of (minimal) security hardware, but who knows where that can scale. The secure is made accessible.
The Github upload instructions are illustrated, and you know we appreciate documentation. There are a couple of tables for the controller pins and header for your convenience. You will be compiling your sketch in Arduino’s IDE, but uploading through ST-Link across some wires you will have to solder. We are in advanced territory now, but keep this inspiration train going and drop us a tip to share something you make with this miniature deadbolt.
Locks and security are our bread and butter, so enjoy some physical key appreciation and digital lock love.
There are few more satisfying moments than the first time you pick a lock. No matter that it’s a dollar-store padlock that you opened with a pick from a $10 eBay kit, the magic of something that should be secure clicking open in the palm of your hand is hard to beat. Pin tumbler locks are surprisingly simple devices, and to demonstrate this [Farmcraft 101] has produced one at 10x scale to demonstrate their operation on the bench.
The video is a delightful exercise in wood-shop voyerism, as we see him construct the various parts of the lock using his lathe and other workshop tools. A key of the size usually reserved for Freedom Of The City is made, but this one really does slide into the keyway and operate those pins. At the back is a latch mechanism, and the result is a fully-functional model that anyone should be able to use to figure out how the lock works.
Thelock itself isn’t the whole story though, because given the date he’s used it as the basis for a cracking April Fool in which he sends up the [Lock Picking Lawyer] and proceeds to demonstrate the glaring insecurities in his creation. Both videos are there for your enjoyment, below the break. And if you can’t wait to have a go at a lock or two, don’t forget you can always make your own tools using paperclips.
[Ed note: streetcleaner bristles. Thank me later.]
Continue reading “The Key To This City Opens A Real Lock”
Anyone in the know about IoT security is likely to steer clear of a physical security product that’s got some sort of wireless control. The list of exploits for such devices is a long, sad statement on security as an afterthought, if at all. So it’s understandable if you think a Bluetooth-enabled lock is best attacked via its wireless stack.
As it turns out, the Master 5440D Bluetooth Key Safe can be defeated in a few minutes with just a screwdriver. The key safe is the type a realtor or AirBnB host would use to allow access to a property’s keys. [Bosnianbill] embarked on an inspection of the $120 unit, looking for weaknesses. When physical attacks with a hammer and spoofing the solenoids with a magnet didn’t pay off, he decided to strip off the resilient skin that Master so thoughtfully provided to prevent the box from marring the finish of a door or gate. The denuded device thus revealed its awful secret: two Phillips screws, each securing a locking shackle to the cover. Once those are loose, a little prying with a screwdriver is all that’s need to get the keys to the kingdom.
In a follow-up video posted later, [Bill] took a closer look at another key safe and found that Master had made an anemic effort to fix this vulnerability with a squirt of epoxy in each screw head. It’s weak, at best, since a tap with a hammer compresses the gunk enough to get a grip on the screw.
We really thought [Bosnianbill]’s attack would be electronic, like that time [Dave Jones] cracked a safe with an oscilloscope. Who’d have thought a screwdriver would be the best way past the wireless stack?
Continue reading “Fail Of The Week: Padlock Purports To Provide Protection, Proves Pathetic”