Locksmiths Pissed Off At Geeks For Letting Out The Secret: Lockpicking Is Easy

from the without-the-internet,-we'd-all-be-safe dept

As I’ve mentioned before, back in high school, I had an art teacher who taught me both how to pick locks and how to make lockpicks (it was a fun class). Since then I’ve always been fascinated by the whole process of picking locks, though I haven’t kept up with the field or even picked a lock in years. However, there is a huge community of folks online — many coming from the tech/hacker community — who spend a lot of time exploring lockpicking, and talking about it in great detail online. And, as Gizmodo notes, this is pissing off some locksmiths. What’s not stated overtly is the obvious reason, and it’s the same for any professional system that requires “certification.” It’s rarely about making sure people are good enough, but has everything to do with limiting the competition to keep fees high. The locksmiths aren’t really so worried about criminals learning how to pick locks online (even though some claim that). They’re worried that people won’t need to call locksmiths anymore when they get locked out of their homes. On top of that, the lock companies hate to admit that their locks are pickable (they are), and so they hit back at those who prove it, just as software companies hate to admit that their software has vulnerabilities. Over time, perhaps locksmiths and lock companies will recognize that an enthusiastic hobby community that helps make sure locks are more secure can only be a good thing.

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Comments on “Locksmiths Pissed Off At Geeks For Letting Out The Secret: Lockpicking Is Easy”

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Allen (profile) says:

What secret?

You only need to lock yourself out once to see how ridiculously quick and easy it is to pick a lock.

All you need is the right tools. And look there you dont even have to make them your self – right here on this page Ads by Google have conveniently pointed out where to buy them!

Reading the article “Google co-founder Sergey Brin recently gave the pastime a further boost, confessing that he has been a picking enthusiast since he was a student.”

It all becomes clear: It’s a conspiracy!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: What secret?

And unless its a two-bit theif they only have to watch you for about a week to find out where you keep it if you don’t have it in the obvious places like ontop of the door jam or under the welcome mat or in a ‘hide-a-key’ fake rock, or near a lawn gnome or other decorative object….

Anonymous Coward says:

I never found lockpicking particularly easy 🙁

But yeah, it’s not something that takes years and years of training to get. It may take years and years of practice to do *really well* (there are competitions for lockpickers where they open locks as fast as possible, some of them are actually pretty scary to watch), but no need to waste $100 on a locksmith callout if you lock your door behind you.

bubba says:

interesting but they were not really pissed

if you read the article you see there is one story about a guy who went to a locksmith shop and tried to get some info. who knows how he presented himself there but im kinda thinking the locksmith was in the rightm for asking him to leave. the other lockmsiths are not so much pissed really, they just seem to acknowledge yeah it will hurt their businesses and yeah maybe the wrong people will get this info….

johnny c says:

Just Like the Garage Door Install / Repair Industry

I needed new springs for my garage door and everyone said it was so dangerous and I had to have a professional do it, not true at all. It took us about 2 hours and it was a little harder than changing a tire. I have the feeling most niche trades like this are also trying to limit the competition and keep prices elevated.

Don’t fear the garage door…I lived to tell about it

ehrichweiss says:

Re: Re: Just Like the Garage Door Install / Repair Industry

Ever changed your brake pads only to discover that you really should have taken it to a mechanic because the pads weren’t the problem the rusted/busted brake line and caliper were at fault?

My dad owned a diesel repair shop that I worked at when I was younger and I can teach you how to change your brake pads but I can’t teach you to diagnose; that only seems to come from years of experience. I can diagnose a ton of cars simply by the noise they make or a combination of other symptoms, without opening the hood usually: spun bearing, rod knocking, valve chatter, burning oil, rich fuel mixture, blown head gasket, etc. all came from years of experience, not reading about it online or in a book.

I’m not saying that you can’t do that yourself but there’s a reason you pay a mechanic and they only laugh if you get in the middle of a repair job and then have to take it to them to fix everything you broke trying to fix it. Really, they do.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Re: Re: Just Like the Garage Door Install / Repair Industry

I knew I was going to piss of a mechanic by saying that.

Last I saw, a locksmith’s job included, but not limited to, picking locks. That is just a small part of their job. When it comes to building locks or determining what kind of lock is best to secure special places, I’d pay an expert. Picking locks is just a small part, just like replacing break pads or shoes.

When it comes to break pads, it’s kinda easy to tell that you only have 3mm of pad left and they need replaced. If I broke a piston rod or cracked the engine block, I’d call a mechanic.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Just Like the Garage Door Install / Repair Industry

So true, most people are either lazy or feel that because they don’t have a “qualification” they can’t do something.

Bit like my mate who ended up paying £90 for a plumber to tighten a leaky valve. He sure felt like an idiot when it took a wrench and 30 seconds.

WisconsinGod says:

Re: Re: Just Like the Garage Door Install / Repair Industry

It’s not about how simple it is, it’s having the knowledge to determine the problem and solve it. Plumbers know pipes, locksmiths know locks, and techs know computers. Based on some of the comments here, put things into perspective.

I’m not a plumber, but I’m not a moron either. I could have a leaky valve, but it might take me hours to diaganose which valve is leaky, and then take the proper steps resarching to know whether it just needs tightening, or whether it needs replacing. It may just be a simple leak, but you call in the people with experience because you want it done quick, and you want it done right.

I’m not a mechanic, but I can replace break pads myself. However, I still usually have a mechanic do it, as if there is an error in installation, I have an avenue of recourse, rather than just blaming myself for trying to take the cheap way.

Finally i’m not a locksmith, so if I get locked out of my house or car, I’ll call one, rather than look up how to pick a lock on my web enabled cell phone.

Maxwell S says:

Re: Just Like the Garage Door Install / Repair Industry

You’re right, it’s not that dangerous with the right tools and a little patience. The problem is when Joe Homeowner eyes that big screw and says, “That’ll fit…” and proceeds to have his hand nearly ripped off and the screw drive lodged in the opposite wall. Like many things — safe if done right, bad news if done wrong.

PS – here’s a hint, instead of the screw drivers try a couple of 3/8 inch by 2 foot steel rods and walk the tension off the spring one notch at a time. The rods should be snug in the whole and make sure that you sink them in completely before trying to move spring.

Adam (profile) says:

Re: Just Like the Garage Door Install / Repair Industry

To be fair, it is actually dangerous, especially with heavier doors. If one is simply competent and mechanically inclined, you figure out that you need to put the door up and tie it in place to take tension off the springs.

But oh my god, there are stupid people out there. And no one wants to be liable because some idiot couldn’t be safe while working with large, powerful springs and a metal garage door/gate that wants to fall back down.

virtuadept (user link) says:

Doesn't Follow

“Over time, perhaps locksmiths and lock companies will recognize that an enthusiastic hobby community that helps make sure locks are more secure can only be a good thing.”

By that logic, we should welcome virus writers, data thieves, and malicious hackers as a “good thing” because they help make operating systems more secure.

advocate says:

Re: Doesn't Follow

I would say a more correct analogy would be to say that we should welcome amateur firewall writers and antivirus creators. If there were than more than three or four companies would be used at everyone’s homes.

Symantec is the quickset of the anti-virus world and most people don’t realize anything but them and McAfee exist. If we had more anti-virus companies perhaps symantec and McAfee would work more on making computers secure and less on features that slow it down with no improvement in real security.

ehrichweiss says:

Re: Doesn't Follow

Actually, besides your hyperbole there, yes, you should learn to be a virus writer or the like because it gives you insight to how a virus writer thinks. How do you think that security expert get their knowledge? It’s surely not by sitting around and talking about how you *think* it works with your friends who work can’t use a computer.

some old guy says:

Re: Doesn't Follow

By that logic, we should welcome virus writers, data thieves, and malicious hackers as a “good thing” because they help make operating systems more secure.

We do. HOBBY virus writers don’t wreck chaos, they write a virus and send it to the av companies. HOBBY hackers are actually called security consultants.

but obviously you’d so much like to argue with mike that you cant see the difference between responsible hobbies and malicious hobbies.

Ben says:

Re: Doesn't Follow

“Over time, perhaps locksmiths and lock companies will recognize that an enthusiastic hobby community that helps make sure locks are more secure can only be a good thing.”

“By that logic, we should welcome virus writers, data thieves, and malicious hackers as a “good thing” because they help make operating systems more secure.”

How very wrong you are virtuadept. He said that “an enthusiastic hobby community” made things better – he didn’t say that the breakers and enterers did. People who write viruses to expose vulnerabilities and then inform people about it ARE helping – because there’s someone else out there who will write it and NOT TELL ANYBODY so that it ends up costing millions of dollars. The people who know how to pick locks don’t want you to know how easy it is either – they want you to think you are safe while they break in to your house. The people who are telling us how easy it is are trying to help – exposing a flaw for all to see so that they know how to fix it.

Shut up. Please.

Brannon says:

Re: Doesn't Follow...again.

Your ad absurdum argument is missing the mark. Any “ethical” hobby community will always be good for progress and advancement in the field (not so much for the price hiking “technicians”). Of course the virus writers, data thieves, and malicious hackers will hurt the community! Its the white hats who help the systems we use for security. Every year, dozens of exploits are uncovered and shared with computer companies at events like DefCon so they can improve the system for everyone. This is clearly a good thing.

LOGIC says:

Re: Doesn't Follow

Well… yeah! What he says is that the hobbyists who pick (their own) locks aware beneficial. So finding vulnerabilities in (YOUR OWN) computer could be beneficial if you let the developers know of your exploits. Becoming a malicious hacker would equate, in this case, to picking other people’s locks, which he says is NOT a good thing.

Engineerer says:

Re: Doesn't Follow

You’re poking fun at the logic but it *does* work exactly that way.

Without virus writers and hackers finding the holes, the holes would go unnoticed. By exploiting them, they become apparent and get fixed.

The main difference is intent – some kid learning how to pick his own locks is different than a kid learning how to pick *your* lock. For hackers, this would be the difference between ‘white hat’ and ‘black hat’ – one is finding the holes just to find the holes, just like these hobby locksmiths.

Haywood says:

Depends on the lock

While most front door locks are mass produced, sloppy fit, huge tolerance junk, some locks are precise works of art. I’m not saying they can’t be picked, it would be however, time consuming & require above average dexterity. A construction firm owner owned my house previously, and some of my passage doors have near vault quality locks. I was for a while apprenticing as a locksmith for a while, and we re-keyed my house as an exercise, some of those locks were amazingly close tolerance.

ehrichweiss says:

Re: Re:

Ahh, the A+ certification, the laughing stock of training certifications. I’m sure that a lot of people put stock in those things but I get more business by pointing out to potential customers that, as you pointed out, most of it is learned by anyone who is willing to tinker even the slightest with their computer, instead I point out that I’ve been involved with the computer industry for 25+ years. By contrast, my father, who is definitely not a tech, could pass A+.

Wiser Than You says:


You subscribe to the whole, “Let’s publicize security holes for Operating Systems because it makes it safe” bullcrap.

The reason Locksmiths don’t want dumbasses like you publishing how to pick a lock is, locks are there for a reason. To keep dumbasses like you out of other peoples stuff.

Paul (user link) says:

Re: DumbA$$

Security by obscurity doesn’t work. I want a lock that keeps my stuff safe not because locksmiths are keeping a secret of how easy it is to lockpick, but because its actually difficult to do so. The best way thats going to happen is to find the vulnerable locks (which locksmiths don’t want to do, because it makes their job more difficult) by having *lots* of people trying to pick them. You’re reasoning is flawed. I don’t want it a secret of how to pick my locks. I want it to just be impossible to pick my locks (obviously, impossible is stretching it, but you should get my point).

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: DumbA$$

You subscribe to the whole, “Let’s publicize security holes for Operating Systems because it makes it safe” bullcrap.

Yes. And for security holes in electronic door locks too.

Hotel Lock Company Wants Hotels To Pay For Fixing Their Hackable Product

The reason Locksmiths don’t want dumbasses like you publishing how to pick a lock is, locks are there for a reason. To keep dumbasses like you out of other peoples stuff.

Wouldn’t a more secure lock do better job of that?

Anonymous of Course says:

Before the Internet...

There were books, you could find them in libraries.
Books like In The Steal Of The Night which is about
auto repossession and lock picking.

Some people thought this was dangerous and fussed
about it. Others worried that it would harm their
guild. It did neither and I suspect the internet will
have much the same effect, very little. I realize
that the internet is easier than going to a library.
So the impact may be marginally greater.

Even so most people who enjoy lock picking as a hobby
have no interest in committing a crime. I’ve never
liked crossword or jigsaw puzzles but mechanisms
fascinate me. Locks are generally small and not too
difficult to solve, so I like locks.

Very often, and criminals know this, the door jams are
a weaker point than even a lousy lock. They’ll just
pry between the door and jam then the door pops open,
knock the door off the hinges, or use a big slip joint
pliers on the lockset.

I can’t recall hearing of a burglary or home invasion
where the lock was picked. It’s something I’d expect
coupled with surveillance activities. So the “criminals”
who are most likely to pick the lock already have acess
to the information.

some old guy says:

Strange noones mentioned it..

But I actually keep an old hotel card key and my insurance card in my back pocket at all times because of how valuable they have historically been when I needed a door unlocked. (each has their own str/agi stats, some doors require a very flexible card, while with others, the rigidity of the card is the most useful asset to open the door.

Obviously, this doesn’t work with deadbolts, but its ridiculously easy to open most doors that aren’t deadbolted.

Anonymous of Course says:

Re: Strange noones mentioned it..

Just like in the old secret agent movies…

That is a good trick, not as useful these
days. Modern entry sets have a little pin
at the front of the latch that prevents
it from being depressed if it is pushed
in first (a deadlocking plunger.)

But there are still a lot of old locks in

SaveMyIndustry says:

It's all about the know how.

A luxury cruise ship was stranded off the coast, they had been sitting dead in the water for 2 days trying to repair the engines with no luck. Anxious to keep the passengers happy they decided to hire a specialist and fly him out to the ship via helicopeter to get the engines fixed and get the ship moving again.

The specialist arrived and went to work, while the Captain and the ship mechanics watched and waited in anticipation. He removed what appeared to be a stethoscope from his bag and started placing it on the engine and listening as he rapped on the side with his knuckle. After about 10 minutes of this, he said, “Ahh Ha”, removed a ballpeen hammer from his bag and tapped the engine twice quickly in the spot he had marked with his knuckle. The engines, which had been on, but not turning or doing anything, immediately sprang back to life and started running.

The Captain was ecstatic, until the specialist demanded his payment of $50,000. The Captain said I can’t justify paying you $50,000 for 20 minutes of work without an itemized billing, besides all you did was tap the engine with a hammer, anyone could have done that.

The specialist presented his bill and received his full payment:
Cruise Ship Engine Repair:
$10.00 – Tapping Engine with Hammer
$49990.00 – Knowing where to Tap the Engine

Knowledge is valuable, and some people feel that restricting knowledge increases it’s value, when in reality it only increases an individuals ability to monetize that specific knowledge. As the above ‘story’ illustrates, if everyone shared the same knowledge pool, there would be no need for a specialist, just as if everyone knew how to pick locks, there would be little need for locksmiths (there will always be some need, I know how to change the oil in my car, but I’d still rather pay $20 and have someone at ‘Jiffy Lube’ do it for me).

John (profile) says:

Why are you paying a professional

Ask yourself this: why are you paying a professional to do a job? Are you paying for his service (which you could do yourself) or are you paying for his expertise and experience in the field?

Like poster #45 illustrated with his story, professionals are the ones who know how to diagnose AND repair the item.
In the case of fixing your brakes: such you could it yourself, but maybe a mechanic will find that your brakes lines need replacing and you need more brake fluid.
By changing the brakes yourself, you might save a little money, but by not adding brake fluid, you could be risking your life.

The bottom line is what these locksmiths are complaining about: yes, people can pick their own locks, get over it. Instead, they need to market themselves as “release experts” or something similar.

Larry969 says:

Is all this so?

“IF you outlaw guns, ONLY outlaws will have guns.”

In case anyone here didn’t know, there have been books about ‘lock picking’ available for MANY years in the back of magazines. These books taught all there was to know about ‘lock picking’ at the time. Heck, most of this information is still good.

The lock companies are just as slow as the government about updating their wares.

THEN, when they DO, They charge an arm and a leg for the new tech.

I wonder why people still bother to ‘pick a lock’….


Robin says:

I actually remember first hearing about those keys that could get into any lock made by a certain manufacturer. There was a flood of fraud on ebay when fake sellers were holding auctions for the keys and collecting money but never delivering any goods. It’s a bit like the current trend of fake antivirus posing as real antivirus programs. Thankfully, digital and physical lockpicking are two very different things.

Jason Scheide (profile) says:

You are your own worst enemy

Hackers and lock pickers are very much alike. You get joy in destroying. You are the little bullies who kick down sandcastles and feel good about it.

Because of your joy in finding holes in security and then telling criminals how to take advantage of those holes the security business is booming. And you have to pay more for your firewalls and your virus protection and your locks.

Spadina Security now recommends you have a Mul-T-Lock Hercular Deadbolt on all your exterior doors. A few years ago we only recommended you install a good quality deadbolt.

The price difference is double.

And if you don’t buy the better deadbolt lock? Well do you really trust the person sitting beside you in that lock picking group? Go ahead give them your address and tell them about the new Iphone you just bought.

Locksmiths don’t hate geeks. We hate taking advantage of people. We want to install value. We don’t want to break your budget.

Bottom line: Our secrets keep you secure and save you money.

ChickinSammich says:

From a locksmith's perspective...

My father has been a professional locksmith for the past 30 years of his life, and has been a board member for various national locksmith associations. Here’s his take:

He doesn’t care if you want to pick your own locks or jimmy your own cars. He doesn’t even do residential work any more because there’s no money in it (he mostly does commercial/industrial/government and works primarily on large master keying and safe installation/openings).

However, he strongly supports certifications (and has proctored and graded certification exams), not because “locksmiths want to keep fees up”, but because FAKE “locksmiths” will try to quote you one price on the phone, come out to your house, DRILL your lock when it doesn’t need drilling, then re-quote you a price of about a couple hundred dollars to install a new lock that they bought from Home Depot for 15 bucks.

The locksmiths who make their bread and butter on commercial work ARE struggling, and some of them have raised prices to compensate. But the certifications are not there to raise prices, they’re there to keep give scammers who work out of their trunk and use bait-and-switch pricing from screwing customers over.

If you can pick your own locks or open your own cars, that’s admirable and most locksmiths don’t have a problem with that at all.

R.H. (profile) says:

Just Like the Garage Door Install / Repair Industry

With certain older garages (like the one at the house where I grew up) this axiom is true. That door was solid wood and weighed a couple hundred pounds. Those springs…I saw one fly across the yard when it was improperly removed once. I’m glad no one was in the way. The newer springs though, since the doors are MUCH lighter, are a completely different story. Those springs may cut you up a bit if you’re not careful but they probably won’t break bones ^_^

Cooper (profile) says:

Very interesting post. 20 years back I learned to pick from a friend of mine. Back then it was like arcane knowledge passed down by people in the know and anyone who might have bought Eddie the Wire’s books in nefarious bookstores that also sold the Anarchist’s Cookbook. I always loved and enjoyed picking but it actually became quite a pain in the butt during college. Suddenly all my friends had me on speed dial and they all seemed to become less careful about not locking themselves out of their cars and homes! If I had charged them all what a locksmith would have I would have had substantially less student loans to pay back!

I just finished a new crime thriller called Boxman (old slang term for safe cracker) and I have already gotten some sour comments from people complaining that the scenes are too well described! Oh well…the information is already out there…I just put it to fiction!


Overcast (profile) says:

This is like auto repair shops whining about auto forums and guides online.

Not everyone is going to fix their own car engine, just not going to happen.

Not everyone is going to pick their own lock if it needs it, or replace them if they need that.

I’ll fix my engine and replace a lock, but if I need it picked – I’m calling someone, lol. Gotta know your limitations; and I just don’t have time for everything.

So – whine more, everyone’s a techophobe now-a-days; on something…

Anonymous locksmith says:


Cheap locks are easier to get into that the more expensive type. Basically if you go to bunnings warehouse or any other “hardware stores” to buy your locks then you can safely say that your house is not secure. They are very basic run of the mill “pickable” locks. There are unpickable locks available on the market today and most large organisations have high security locks and access control (swipe cards). So those of you who are playing with the idea may need to think again when fiddling with your locks especially when you have to spend big dollars getting a real professional out after hours to not only get into your house but replace the damaged lock that you decided to play with!!!!!!!!

Steelbacks says:

New Lock version 2.0

It’s already happened. American locks padlock used by many stores in the US had a bypass weakness. American locks fixed it by supplying a disc you inserted in the lock (the ‘patch’). Locksmith tool supplier came up with a tool to punch a hole in the disc to get round the ‘patch’…

Interestingly, new locks weren’t fitted with the disc already instead, but you could order it and have it fitted to your lock. The reason? Cost! Manufacturers make crap locks because they’re cheap.

In the mid 1800s competitions were held between lock companies and pickers so improvements in lock design and manufacture could be advanced to market. After a while lock companies stopped doing this because they just wanted people to but barely serviceable locks so that they could make maximum profit for minimum effort.

trey says:

lockpicking being easy

i doubt more than 1 locksmith even cares about other people taking up the hobby. i dont care who you are or how you started, your not going to pick up a couple pieces of metal and be able to pick a deadbolt or the locks on your newish car. its easy to start learning, i recently just started myself and can do quite a few different padlocks, but its hard to master and not everyone will have the specialty tools when they need them for the more complex locks. it also boils down to practice, and most teens and people in their early 20s are very likely to give up once they realize its a challenge, but they arent likely to admit it. instead they come here and talk about how skilled at lockpicking they are, even though that practice deadbolt they paid 50 bux for is still sitting in its half open box next to a pile of high quality picks that have only ever been looked at.

Deanjones (profile) says:

Easiest method for finding a good locksmith

For me, the best sources of information regarding local locksmiths are friends and family. If you reside or work in a small village or town, expect to find names of between 2 and 4 trustworthy Locksmiths. On the other hand, anybody who works or resides in a much bigger city should expect to choose from a list that contains names of more than 25 reliable technicians. Friends and family can help you narrow the names down further.

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