Every doorknob comes with a built-in lock. Exterior doors typically also come with a deadbolt. Most apartments have a chain on the entry door as well.
This is what the average person is using to keep intruders out — a handle, a deadbolt, and maybe a chain. And perhaps that keeps people feeling safe enough on a normal day. After all, many intruders are looking for an easy way into a house, so if the door is locked, they’ll move on. Right?
Sure. But not all of them.
A quick online search will show you how simple it is to pick or bump a lock. There are plenty of YouTube videos that will show you exactly how to do it.
And of course, we’ve seen James Bond and bad guys in movies pick locks with paper clips, bobby pins, credit cards, and nearly anything else they can find lying on the ground. But is it actually easy? James Bond is a trained spy — could anyone learn how to pick a lock?
The short answer is yes. The average lock on a household door is barely more than a deterrent.
To get more information, we got two of our favorite lock experts together: Jon Douglas Rainey (It Takes a Thief) and third-generation locksmith Anthony Hilt, owner of Florida-based Lockman Security. They were both generous enough to take time out of their busy weeks to talk to us about security, lock-picking, lock bumping (including how disturbingly easy it is), and what you can do to make your home safer.
How to Pick a Door Lock
One of the more surreal experiences we’ve had was watching Anthony pick (and also bump) a lock right before our eyes. We’re a security company who works tirelessly to make sure our clients feel safe and secure at home, and we know that regular doors and windows just won’t keep out determined intruders. But to watch someone get through a locked door that quickly and that easily was disconcerting. It turns out, we’re not alone in that. Anthony told us that his wife has made him install high-security locks on every house they’ve ever lived in for that very reason — she watched him pick a lock one day and it terrified her.Many years ago, they went over to her grandmother’s house while she was out of town — your typical pick up the mail and water the plants kind of scenario. But when they got there, his wife realized she’d forgotten the key to the house. Of course, Anthony figured he could pick it. And he did — in less than 30 seconds. There are two basic techniques that people can learn to pick a lock. Both are easy enough to find online, but one requires far less skill than the other: lock bumping and lock picking.
Lock Bumping with a Bump Key
Anthony told us that before the recession in 2008, someone published some how-to videos on YouTube about lock bumping. This was back when he was selling Medeco high security locks directly for the company — a product he still sells now in his store because he believes in them so highly. “We couldn’t keep Medeco locks on the shelves after that,” he said. “Everybody suddenly wanted those locks. ”How lock bumping works is that a special key (a bump key) is cut to the deepest cuts of a possible key and then the key is “bumped” into the cylinder of the lock, nudging the pins into place on the key until they’re all settled properly and the key can turn in the lock. Now, you can use basically anything for this process. The bump key itself needs to be purchased, but they’re readily available online. Then the intruder can use almost anything to simply bump the key into place — the handle of a screwdriver, a bump hammer, or a rubber mallet, for example. Some prefer to use a rubber mallet or a bump hammer because they’re quieter than a screwdriver. (It only took Anthony five hits with a bump hammer to get the door open.)But regardless, the noise it makes isn’t anything that would alert a neighbor to anything out of the ordinary. They might think someone is hammering something, driving a stake into the ground, or gardening. It’s not the type of sound that would even catch someone’s ear as being out of place.
And as Jon points out in the video — even if a police officer pulls someone over, they’d never see a key and a screwdriver and think that their plan was lock bumping. The items themselves seem innocuous.
Lock Picking with a Pick Set
The other way to open a locked door is with a pick set, but Anthony admits that this method is more of an art form and takes much longer to master. You’ve seen it in movies though — spies and bad guys with a couple small tools that they insert into locks and somehow open the door. Anthony and his technicians all know how to pick locks with pick sets, and they do so daily (not illegally, of course — typically, to get into customer’s homes when they’ve locked themselves out).
Pick sets are harder to come by. You can’t just buy them anywhere. But experienced criminals who have been able to practice enough will be able to open just about any common household lock.
As you can hear in the video, picking a lock with these tools is incredibly quiet — you might not even be able to hear someone picking the lock on your front door when you’re inside the house.
Why Picking a Lock is Easy
Like every other security measure, the more widely available and mass produced it is, the less secure it is. In order to mass produce anything, you need to standardize it — that’s just simple economics. You can create more of a thing if you create a standard process and a piece of machinery that makes it.
This is a cornerstone of manufacturing that dates all the way back to the industrial revolution. By building a machine that pressed and stamped metal into a specific shape, they were able to produce a much higher volume than if a human were doing the stamping and pressing themselves. It was (and still is) cheaper and faster.
In order to standardize a product like a door lock, you’re literally limiting the number of key combinations that are possible to unlock it, which makes it easier to open. As Anthony and Jon discuss in the video, it’s entirely possible that you and your next door neighbor could end up with the same house keys if you purchased locks from the same batch. And if that’s the case, how many people in your city could have the same house key as you? That doesn’t sound too secure, does it?Of course, people breaking into your home aren’t likely to have keys, but the fact that the locks are so standardized makes them very easy to pick or bump. Once you learn how to pick a lock, you can pick pretty much any standard lock you come across. You can see in the video that Anthony is able to open a standard lock in under one minute whether he’s using the lock bumping technique or a standard pick set. Aside from the fact that this information is terrifying, it also highlights the limitations of normal household security measures. Notice also that if you purchase a new doorknob and deadbolt set from your local hardware store, the same key opens both locks. We can tell you with certainty that neither is difficult to pick, but why make it easier for people by giving them a duplicate lock?
Why Rekeying Isn’t the Answer After a Break-In
As Anthony says in the video, a lot of homeowners who’ve been robbed choose to rekey their homes, which means to reprogram or replace the cylinders inside their locks and have new keys made for the locks on their doors. Doing this makes them feel safer — they’ve replaced their locks and they feel like they’ve done their due diligence so it doesn’t happen again. But that assumes that the person who broke into their homes used a key, and as we can see in the video, there’s really no need for a criminal to have a key to your house in order to gain entry. They can do it in seconds with the lock bumping technique and almost no practice. If you’re concerned about intruders entering your home, the only solution is to upgrade your security, whether that means getting high security locks that are drill, pick, and bump resistant, or by going all out and getting high security doors. If you take nothing else away from this video, please remember that regular locks from the hardware store are not going to keep determined intruders out of your home. They’re easily picked and very flawed.
Upgrading Your Security with Locks You Can’t Pick
Because our locks aren’t made the same way as mass produced locks you’d find at the hardware store, they simply don’t have the same problems that those types of locks have. For example, there’s no way you can pick our locks — not through lock bumping or a pick set.As Ricky demonstrates in the video, some intruders (perhaps with less patience or desire to hide their crime) prefer to drill through the lock to gain quick entry. While drills are louder, they’re not out of the ordinary and do not signal to anyone that a crime might be occurring. Neighbors may think someone is building or repairing something on their own property.As a part of Anthony’s work as a locksmith, he sometimes has to drill through locks, but when Jon shows him the FBS door at Premium Kitchens, he has to admit that even if he tried to drill it, he wouldn’t even know where to start.And it may go without saying, but FBS keys cannot be duplicated. You can’t walk into a hardware store and ask for a copy of our keys — they don’t have the equipment. Every key we make is specifically created for your lock. For convenience purposes, we can have master keys made that will open every security door in your home, but you can still have keys made that only open specific doors.If you’d like to take keys out of the equation entirely, we can do that, too. We offer motorized locks that work with facial recognition software and fingerprint scanners so you don’t even have to think about keys anymore. (This is particularly exciting when your hands are full and you don’t want to set down all your stuff to open the door.) If biometrics aren’t your thing, we can also use proximity sensors that you can keep in your wallet or on your keychain that will work in the same fashion: you get close enough to the door and it opens for you. We’d say it’s like magic, but it’s not — it’s technology.
Perfecting the Art of Security
At FBS, we’re constantly striving to perfect the art of security. It might sound like we’re bragging, but no one else is making the same products we are: completely custom security doors and windows that are not only hurricane-certified, but are unique works of art. We’d love to talk to you about our custom security doors and windows, and how we can tailor them to your design aesthetic, color palette, and existing decor. If you have questions, feel free to check out our common questions page to see if you can easily find the answer you’re looking for there, but we believe that talking on the phone is the best way to get an idea of what you’re hoping to achieve. We’ve built bespoke security doors and windows for clients all over the world (you can read what they have to say about us here), and we’re completely confident that we can do the same for you. All new orders of our doors and windows now come with our Platinum Level Service plan, which provides you with a one-stop shop for any questions or maintenance issues. Get in touch with us today to see how our products can help protect your home, your valued possessions, and most importantly: your family.