Saturday, March 15, 2008

Picking Locks and Minds

I spent this morning reading over a book Glenn ordered called, How To Open Locks With Improvised Tools: Practical, Non-Destructive Ways Of Getting Back Into Just About Everything When You Lose Your Keys. I remember as a kid that lock picking was almost a necessity when dealing with four other siblings. I learned how to pick locks early (very simple ones) but never went beyond the basics of using a hanger or paperclip to pry open a lock. However, as one who tends to be absent-minded and has locked her keys in the car on more than one occasion, I decided to read over and keep this book as a future reference for more advanced lock-picking.

I never knew opening things was so complicated. I have always had a respect for lock-smiths, especially since getting some good advice from one-six-and a half foot giant who installed locks at my old office. He told me that no lock was impenetrable, but he never really cared --"if someone is dumb enough to break into my home," he stated, "then they're all mine." Not a bad mind-set to have and it certainly worked for him. "Who would break into his place?" I thought. Anyway back to the book and the mechanics of lock picking.

The book empasizes the mental aspects of successful lock bypass (sounds like some type of surgery). First, the author says, try not to need it. "Make a habit of physically checking to see if you have your keys before going through a door or leaving your car. If you think you are holding them, look down and visually confirm it." You should also try to find a spare key, roommate or some other way of getting into your car, home etc. before attempting to pick a lock.

If one does have to open a lock, they are advised "never to force a mechanical part to move." The most force that should be used "is the same amount it would take to use the key or inside handle." The greatest cause of failure to open a lock is using the wrong method of entry. "You might have half a dozen bypass ideas in mind, but you have to choose the right one to get the job done....Having the wisdom to determine how much of what you know is specific to the lock in front of you and having the ability to apply that knowledge is at least as important as the knowledge itself." Finally, the author advises, take your time. "If you give up too easily or lose patience, you aren't allowing yourself a fair shot at it. Do not be sloppy in the way that you use your tools. A professional differs from the incompetent mostly in attidue, in the willingness to proceed carefully and with full attention."

The rest of the book focused on how to do a successful lock bypass on various locks ranging from doors, to handcuffs(!), and cars. There are also sections on how to make tools, use them and how to beef up security around your own house using what you have learned about locks. The book is really helpful.

Okay, so picking locks is not much different than picking minds, that is, you have to be patient, never force change if not necessary, don't use the wrong method of entry and do not give up too easily. Okay, you may think I am being really dumb here,comparing locks to minds, but look, I am not very mechanically inclined, so I guess I have to put everything into a framework that I can understand--it makes it more fun and more of a challenge. Wish me luck the next time I lock my keys in the car.



Blogger Trust said...

@dr helen: "Okay, you may think I am being really dumb here,comparing locks to minds"

Actually, I think the analogy is brilliant. I think one of the biggest conflicts in society in general and relationships in particular are a result of the methods we use to "get what we want" out of people.

I can't say I've never heard someone yell at and/or insult their spouse to do something when a simple "please" would get better results with less damage.

3:05 PM, March 15, 2008  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Perfect analogy, of course!

I had to bookmark that article the other day because I've always been fascinated by locks. I chalk it up to an innate fear of being trapped, either by physical circumstances or mental ones.

(Of course, I am betrayed by my blog-addictions.)

4:07 PM, March 15, 2008  
Blogger Mercurior said...

i think that book may be banned in the UK, there was a big deal about having books that told people how to open locks how they could use it for other criminal means

5:44 PM, March 15, 2008  
Blogger Mercurior said...

just checked it looks like its been relaxed. it was a few years ago that a book like this was banned.

5:46 PM, March 15, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...


The book begins by telling people not to use the information for criminal means which is kind of funny. I highly doubt many criminals are hanging around reading it. If they took that much care to learn a skill, seems like they might try something legal.

How do they decide to ban a book in the UK?

5:54 PM, March 15, 2008  
Blogger Mercurior said...

well it depends on what the book is showing, if the police have concerns, that goes to the home office, who then checks the book, if it is of questionable knowledge, then the home office with MI5 and 6 then can get the book pulled from the publishers, thats the most recent interpretation.

theres the obscene publications acts, obscenity as a 'tendency to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences, and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall'

this is the act

its a very complicated thing here.

yes i agree, its silly, but i think it happened in the 90's about a book of this type.

6:05 PM, March 15, 2008  
Blogger Mercurior said...

the new book by andrew morton, about scientology, is unlikely to be published in the UK, as there are also libel laws, and a lot of other laws involved. the terrorism act, libel laws, if a book promotes certain criminal acts, and so on.. but generally its left up to personal councils, schools etc. then you can get the publishers sued, and while the case is running, the books mentioned cant be sold..

6:27 PM, March 15, 2008  
Blogger Larry Sheldon said...

On locks...

My favorite sayings on the matter are:

Locks are for keeping people out who don't want in very badly.

Raising the quality of a lock raises the the amount of "want to" required for access.

And a variation of the first one: Locks are for keeping out people that don't want in very bad.

I don't know that I originated any of those, but I don't know where I got them.

6:40 PM, March 15, 2008  
Blogger Larry Sheldon said...

A person of my acquaintance was employed by a US goobermint agency that verrry interested in security, such tha only the boss was allowed to have a key to the office.

TPOMA could pick the lock and open the door faster than the boss could using the key.

There are stories from a couple of places about the superduper secure combination locks that are or were used for secure documents safes (aka "file cabinets"). Legend is they can be "bypassed" way faster than than can using the combination.

And last--in an earlier life i was responsible for inventory of some off-premise storage of critical tapes--we rented space in a vault in the bank across the street.

One day I was escorted where vault was to discover that remodeling was in progress, with the massive vault door standing in its circular frame, with remnants of the stud-and-sheetrock walls still clinging to the edge of the frame.

10:28 PM, March 15, 2008  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

I've often had reason to get past a lock, though never for criminal purposes. The whole "want to" thing figures in very strongly: "dang it, I locked my homework in!" or similar. Never been good at the picking of locks, though. I pretty much always have gone around it instead.

Criminals, by the way, rarely bother picking a lock. A heavy boot to a door or bolt cutter to a hasp is both faster and more expedient when you don't care about causing damage - which describes a criminal enterprise nearly every time.

11:22 AM, March 17, 2008  
Blogger Serket said...

My dad took a course through the mail on how to pick locks and make keys. My mom can sometimes solve combination locks.

2:16 PM, March 18, 2008  
Blogger Mercurior said...

i know peregrine, but that was the justification for banning that book. it was a damned silly reason, but.. i have given up reasoning why governments do stuff

4:41 PM, March 18, 2008  
Blogger comatus said...

My father worked 30 years for a major refinery, back when they were considered national security assets. One maintenance man, well-known as a practical joker, said he thought he might take the lock-smithing course advertised in the back of a "men's" magazine, just to have a trade after retirement. He was roundly mocked for his ambition. A year later, at his retirement party, he handed every worker a key to his own locker, and each executive a duplicate key to his own office.

9:34 AM, March 20, 2008  
Blogger Chris Fountain said...

Best related story I know comes from a long-ago edition of the NYT's Metro Diary - guy locked himself out of his car in Manhattan and flagged down to cops to help. They had the door opened quickly with a jimmy (or whatever those thin steel things are) and started to leave. "Wait a minute" the driver said, "don't you want some proof that I own this car?" "Buddy," the cop responded, "anyone with the gall to ask two cops to help him steal a car deserves it."

9:43 AM, March 20, 2008  
Blogger geekWithA.45 said...

>>to handcuffs(!),


My older sister, who was old enough to know better, decided it would be cute to rummage through the gear I'd left at her place, and handcuff herself to her boyfriend, before checking to see if there was a key anywhere.

I was at my girlfriend's, an hour's drive in one direction, and the key locked up in my apartment, an hours drive in the other direction.

Fortunately, I'd become adept at picking that particular lock, which greatly simplified the logistics of the thing.


9:46 AM, March 20, 2008  
Blogger Bill White said...

The habit of checking visually for keys before I close a door has saved my keister many times, ever since the day many years ago when I locked the door knowing the keys were in my hand. After it was locked I looked down, and it was a fork instead of the keys.

10:40 AM, March 20, 2008  
Blogger submandave said...

Mercurior, only in the UK would books on lock picking and scientology be banned but hateful rhetoric spewed in mosques be protected as "diverstity."

Oh, wait, I guess that's true in Canada, too.

Come to think of it, I know several here in the good ole USA who seem to share the idea as well.

Damn, now I'm depressed. Can you help me, Dr. Hellen?

10:57 AM, March 20, 2008  
Blogger Jim C. said...

Maybe Insty can tell us how much in that book isn't in the MIT lock picking guide that's freely available on the web.

Similar to the MIT guide, there's also a guide to lock bumping, which is supposed to be a lot easier than any other technique and effective on more locks.

8:14 PM, March 20, 2008  
Blogger Dave said...

Sorry to be off topic but your post made me think.

Let's make locks illegal and keep trespassing and illegal entry laws current. Then all we have to do is put up signs on everyone's doors that say: "No illegal entry."

Wouldn't that save us all a lot of time and money? Just make a law.

5:16 PM, March 21, 2008  
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