Really mundane I know, but I picked the door lock to my house last night. It’s disturbingly easy.
Backstory: While upgrading security to my house I got recommendations about better locks, and became curious about how easy lock-picking is. So I ordered a set of picks from Amazon and had a go at it last night. 11 minutes after opening the box of picks I had the lock open. I’ve literally never seen lock picks or tried this before. I shudder to think how quickly a pro could open them.
FWIW: This was using the old locks I saved after a complete replacement. The new ones are a higher grade and more resistant to this.
Long time ago, yeah. I was not skilled at all, but I could open any padlock I tried in seconds. I never opened a lock for any practical purpose, though, it was just an interesting pastime, kind of like slight of hand.
Yeah I bought a cheap set of lockpicks from China last year - with like 15 picks with three tourque wrenches and a see-through learning aid lock. Easy to pick most padlocks in seconds. Harder to pick multifaced dimple locks like my front door.
My dad owned his own part-time lock-smithing business so I grew up around locks of every sort and had multiple pick sets with which I could play. I was never all that great at picking them but yeah, most padlocks were fairly simple. The scary thing was how much other info I could have accessed. Where do i drill on most models of safe doors to access the locking mechanism? No Problem. Factory security features on newer cars? Here ya go!
30 or so years ago, my brother and I picked the lock to our mom’s bike - it was one of those chains with the 4 combination selectors attached to the chain dealies. We didn’t need to try all 10,000 combinations - we could feel when we had the first unguessed digit correct.
Oh yeah, so many of those types of locks are pretty easy if you have a few minutes to play around with them. I moved into one house several years ago where the realtor forgot to remove the lockbox that keeps the key for other agents to show the house (like this kind). You can’t remove it without opening the lock first.
Anyway, I had never seen that type of lock before, didn’t google it, but got it open in like 5 minutes by just seeing what buttons offered different levels of resistance.
When I was in college, I had a roommate who had worked for a locksmith in highschool. While he never actually showed me how to pick alock, he did describe the process (essentially, use one tool to put the cylinder under some torque and another to rake over the tumblers to get them to fall into place, when the cylinder would turn). I was fascinated, but never tried it.
Fast forward 5 to 10 years and I had graduated with a good job and a sailboat (a daysailer). I kept the sailboat at a storage lot on a local lake. There was a padlock on the main gate and another on my stall. A buddy and I went to take the boat out on the lake for a day-sailing adventure. Unfortunately, when we got to the lake, I discovered I had left the keys to the locks at home. Being nearly an hour away, to go home and come back would take nearly half the time and I decided it was not worth it.
Before we left, though, another boat-owner opened the main gate and we made it to the door to my stall. In my truck, I had a small Craftsman slotted screwdriver and a piece of high-carbon wire. Remembering what my old roommate had told me, I told my buddy that before we left, I wanted to try and pick the lock. I had my buddy use the screwdriver to put torque on the cylinder and I used the bit of wire to rake over the tumblers. Amazingly, the lock opened in less than a minute. My buddy was impressed (as was I), and we took off on a day-sailing adventure.
I have used the skill a few times for non-nefarious purposes (either I had lost/forgotten my keys, or just wasting time), but you never forget your first time.
I’ve picked some cheap desk or file cabinet locks with a couple paperclips or hair pins. Never tried a “real” lock on a door. But I have used the credit card swipe trick on my back door once or twice when I locked myself out.
The back door has a bolt as well but the usual sequence is me closing the door, looking for my keys to lock the bolt, realizing I don’t have my keys and that the doorknob won’t turn.
Back in college I would pick locks for fun just as a challenge.
One year on the last day before dorms were closed for winter break, with very few students or faculty left on campus, we arrived very late at one of my friend’s dorm room and he realized he’d left his key inside. The RAs were all gone and it was unlikely we’d find a custodian at that time of night. Just as we were pondering walking back across campus to another friend’s room I noticed he was wearing paperclips as earrings. I had him give me the “earrings” and had his dorm room lock picked in 30 seconds. Saved the day!
I was attached to the State Department on my last military tour. Part of our job with Diplomatic Security was to install and defeat locks, so we attended a locksmith school prior to posting. In most cases, it’s actually much easier to defeat a lock than to pick it. I did pick one recently, though; it was a simple lock on a cheap “security” box. I did it with a paper clip and a very small screwdriver intended for computer repairs.
I once encountered a locked box where the person installing the lock hinge had left the screws exposed. So I didn’t bother picking the lock. I just unscrewed the screws and opened the box with the padlock still locked.
I’ve done it, and it really depends on the lock, whether it has security pins in it, whether it has security featuers like sidebar bitting, whether it’s a standard pin-tumbler or something more esoteric , etc. I have an easy time with stuff like your run-of-the-mill retail Master padlocks. Those you can pick almost by just looking at them. A properly installed Schlage deadbolt I won’t have any luck on. I haven’t put in enough hours of practice, and those tend not to work well with quick methods like raking (although I have heard some people have had success bumping some of the Schlage locks.)
At any rate, picking is generally not the fastest approach. If you could shim or bump that’d be faster, and then you can go to pick-guns and raking before trying single pin picking, which does take some time. I myself never really got that good at it.
The OP may have fun watching Bosnian Bill’s YouTube Channel. I find it strangely addictive and meditative watching him skillfully single pin pick locks. But even somebody as experienced and practiced as him does have some locks stymie him.
I’ve never picked a standard pin tumbler luck, but wafer tumbler locks, like you find on things like desk drawers, are easy. Warded locks are even easier; I used to have three warded padlocks as a keychain, and I’d pick all three in seven seconds to impress my classmates.
The most memorable wafer lock I picked was on a cash register. Nothing nefarious, a guy in my college residence hall had purchased it at some kind of old-equipment auction and couldn’t get the drawer open. He had a pick gun, but apparently didn’t know how to use it. I took the pick (without the gun) and the wrench and opened it in just a few seconds. There was nothing inside.
Among computer folk like myself some feel locks are a personal affront. Lots of tales in various books about the lockpicking culture at MIT and such. E.g., one fellow prof who went to CalTech kept a lockpicking set in his office. Locked out of your office? You knew who to ask for quick help.
My preference is playing with combination locks. Those in-line bicycle locks don’t deserve the term.
I found a Masterlock left by one of the kids, looked up some info online, generated a table of possible combinations, tried them, got it open. I still use it at the pool.
Speaking of which. There was one of those TSA-approved Masterlock 3-wheel things sitting on a locker I regularly used for quite a while. So I gave it a new home. Took less than a couple minutes to open it. The combination is settable so I reset it to one that I can remember. Oddly, trying to “feel” the new combination doesn’t work as well as the original. How often was the old combination used to create a noticeable wear pattern, anyway?
And I’ve also opened doors using a credit card. Something on TV actually works.