Lock Bumping – Is it a Serious Problem?

Recent media has filled with a lot of hype about lock bumping. Advertisers and the mainstream press would like us to believe that lock bumpers are not possible if we don’t invest in the most advanced and expensive home security systems. This is true, but it’s not the only truth. First, it is important to realize that much of this “hot air” has been created by people with financial interests to protect or promote. This includes locksmiths, smart lock manufacturer, insurance companies, etc. They have a point. Lock bumping can be used to open certain lock types without requiring any special skills or knowledge. Are all of us at risk? There are only those who have locks that are vulnerable to this method.

This technique is something I’ve known about as a semi-retired locksmith. Professional locksmiths prefer to use more sophisticated picking techniques with a higher success rate, and lock bumping is considered an amateurish method of defeating locks. I believe this is due to irresponsible internet sites. However, anyone can access the knowledge and equipment needed to bump locks. There are a few things to consider before you can open locks using this technique. This technique works only with cylinder locks. It does not work on lower quality (and thus more expensive) cylinder locks. However, there are millions upon millions of them in daily use so it is possible to say that the lock bumpers environment was still a ‘target rich’ one. Next, our lock bumper has to deal with a bump key. This is a special-cut key that only a locksmith would be able to cut. To be fully equipped to bump any lock, our lock bumper will need thousands of specially-cut bump keys. This is not something you can carry around in your back pocket. This method is often used by criminals to gain access to the most common locks in their particular area. Our lock bumper was also hampered by the fact that I could take ten locks of the same profile and type, and find that only two or three of them would open easily. A further one or two would open with difficulty after repeated attempts. About half of the locks wouldn’t open at all. This is due to the different combinations of pins in the lock. Some combinations open more quickly than others. Our lock bumper also has problems due to the fact that much of the lock-bumping material on the internet is poor quality and contains misleading information. I believe vendors are well aware of this, but also realize they will not be facing trading standards issues. The gullible buyers won’t want to draw attention to their mistakes. The problem of lock bumping is not new. A few criminals have developed this technique and are now able to make a living. What can ordinary people do to protect their possessions and homes?

It is possible to beat the lock bumper. There are many steps that ordinary people can take to defeat poor quality locks. However, a skilled locksmith will be able advise you on the best security measures for your particular situation.

These are some of the ways you can defeat attempts to bump your locks.

Take a look at the locks on all your doors. Are they all cylinder locks or are there other options? Are there lever locks that can be pushed? Although 5 lever curtain locks are preferred by insurers in parts of Europe and the UK, they are not widely available in the US. Most manufacturers now offer ‘bump-proof ‘cylinder locks. This is a great option to consider when cylinder locks are being used. The door locks on patio or sliding doors are often forgotten. They are also often mass-produced and have poor quality locks. All the keys from one manufacturer will have similar profiles, making it a ‘lock bumping heaven’. One bump key could open all of those patio doors. These locks should be upgraded or secondary locks added. You should give the same attention to outbuildings and padlocks that surround your property.

Pick buster is an after-market product that can be injected into cylinder locks. It coats the pins and stops them from bouncing when bumping the lock. Pick buster can make locks bumpproof, but it also makes them easier to pick with more traditional methods. The only way to be sure that your cylinder locks are bump-proof is to make sure they have at least 5-6 pins, and preferably a sidebar mechanism. You will also be protected against lock bumpers and other skilled thieves who may attempt to pick the lock by doing this.