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Lock Security Features
Bump ResistanceThe first thing to consider when looking at the security of most locks is the bump-resistance of the lock. In short, bumping allows anyone with a special 'bump' key to open many of today's common locks after about five minutes of practice. In most cases, bump keys can be ordered by anybody online for under $5. While most home burglaries in the US do not currently involve bumping, it has been used in the last few years, especially in apartment complexes, by burglars. Additionally, bumping as a method of entry is likely underreported as many cases of bumping are attributed to the door having been left unlocked. You want to make sure any lock you are buying is bump proof. Bumping requires a pin tumbler lock and just about all pin tumbler locks may be vulnerable to some form of bumping. Most high security locks have specific features to try and make bumping much harder. We have a full page on The Bumping Threat that you can see for more details.
Key ControlKey Control is another important aspect of any high security lock. Key control refers to how easily key blanks can be obtained, which is important when considering key duplication and the production of bump keys. Common blanks, such as those found at many locksmiths and hardware stores, are available to anyone. This can make it much easier to get a key duplicated, or to get a bump key for the system made. While no key is 100% un-duplicable, most high security locks take precautions to make sure that real blanks are not available to the general public. Many high security systems have different levels of key control. Most frequently the lowest level of key control will make the blanks available to any dealer in the system. The next level generally promises some local exclusivity (to a certain county or part of the state). The following level elevates to a national or international level of key control (sometimes only one dealer or the factory has access to the blanks). The highest level is where the factory is the only one permitted to access key blanks. It is important to have a high level of key control when choosing a key system to ensure that someone cannot obtain an unauthorized copy of your key. This is especially important in systems where you may be required to give a key out for a fixed period of time. Restricted key blank access means you can be sure no other copies have been made when you get your key back. Along with key control, it is important that your dealer is reputable and will not duplicate keys without the proper authority. In addition, you should make sure your keys are not labeled with your dealers name or phone number, or worse, the cuts of the key (often a four, five or six digit number stamped directly on the key). With these markings, someone only needs to see your key momentarily to figure out where to obtain a new key or what the key code is, which can be used to have a duplicate made.
Preventing unauthorized access to blanks is just one aspect of key control. Making the keys harder to duplicate without key machines is another. Most keys are only metal and there are a variety of ways to try to mimic an original key or blank. Metal can be cast and molded with proper skill to duplicate keys. Some high security locks feature interactive or movable elements to deter casting (BiLock, Mul-T-Lock, for a few). While these can frequently be simulated using other techniques, it can help the problem. Other keys are cut in such a way that clay molding or similar is generally not sufficient to capture the detail required to duplicate the key (Abloy). These require much more expensive and complex silicone molding kits to produce a counterfeit. Other keys include features that are extremely hard to reproduce. This can include magnets that are specifically polarized (EVVA MCS), or hybrid electro-mechanical locks that include an electronic chip in the head of the key which makes it virtually impossible to duplicate (Abloy Cliq).