A new hobby.

Collection of padlocks and lockpicking tools

A few months ago, I got a padlock and some lockpicking tools. I might have watched a bit too many LockPickingLawyer videos.

Lockpicking is the art of opening a lock in ways that weren’t intended by its designers. There are many ways to beat a lock without using a key: bumping, loiding, raking, picking, shimming, impressing, or simply breaking the lock with wrenches.

But why?

Why do people make puzzles or solve sudokus? Lockpicking is similar: it’s challenging, and you pick up a new skill. I like fumbling with the padlocks while watching a movie. Some locks are easier to beat than others, same as puzzles really, you can “level up” by moving on to a more difficult one once you get the hang of it.

It’s also a way to show my kids security isn’t absolute. They got interested in my new toy and quickly learned to rake open the practice padlock. Their faces when they realized locks can be bypassed made my day! A good moment to explain a lock might slow down, but won’t stop, a bike thief. A lesson learned, with a bigger impact than my usual ramblings.

Is lockpicking legal?

“Wait… are you teaching your kids to break in? Is this even legal!?”

Honestly? I don’t know. It seems legal in most of the US, but I live in Belgium. There used to be a local TOOOL BE chapter until and this blog post from a Dutch lockpick store claims it is? Do your own research.

“Even if it’s legal, it’s not ethical.”

First, and that goes without saying, I only pick locks I own. Secondly, I believe lockpicking is not (often) used to break in. It’s easier to smash a window or cut through the lock than to pick it. When they broke into our place years ago, two hits with a screwdriver were all they needed to get in through the back door. Still, is it ethically correct to show kids how to pick a lock? I am a programmer. How can I write (reasonably) safe software if I don’t know how it might get attacked? I strongly believe it’s better to know the weak points than pretending they don’t exist.

Getting started

Want to learn how to pick locks? You’ll need a pick and tension wrench to start with (or go die hard and use paperclips). Most online stores referenced on the interwebs are US-oriented. I bought mine at spooxe in Germany since shipping and taxes are cheaper from a European store. Lockpick Webwinkel (in Dutch, from the Netherlands) and LOCK401 (from France or Hong Kong?) are also shipping from Europe, but I have never ordered from them.

While waiting for your tools to arrive you can watch any of the numerous online videos or read “The Document Which Used To Be Called The MIT Lockpicking Guide” to learn everything about security and mushroom driver pins, or full diamond and snake rakes. It’s a great read.

Starting locks

I randomly picked up a small Master №130 padlock from the local hardware store as my first lock and it turned out it’s an easy one to pick. It took me 3 days or so the first time, and I can now reliably open it in under a minute. My next lock was an ABUS Buffo (euro profile) which proved to be a step up. It keeps me busy for a minute or two. My current nemesis is an ABUS TITALIUM 64TI/50. It has better manufacturing tolerances, and I haven’t beaten it yet. One day, I might even be good enough to pick the mythical Medeco Biaxial.