Tonight, we were featured in a CBC news story regarding "bump-keys". (The link is to the entire newshour but you can skip your media player to 6:32 for the story).
Several months ago, a subscriber to this blog sent me a link to a video posted on YouTube from a Dutch television station that showed how to create a bump-key that is capable of opening just about any pin tumbler lock. That video has since been removed from YouTube, but dozens of others are now posted including this one which was featured on the CBC story.
There is a lot of information available on the Internet about how bump-keys work… one of the better resources I found to understand the issue is this white-paper produced by TOOOL (The Open Organization of Lockpickers) which is a Netherlands based lock-picking club… who run the Dutch Open Lockpick Championships (seriously). There are also many places to purchase pre-cut bump-keys to save the hassle of actually cutting your own.
The knowledge of how to ‘bump’ a lock has been around for decades, and although bump-keys have received some increased press over the past couple of years, they are not new.
In my experience, having attended thousands of burglaries during 11 years with Provident and before that with the RCMP, I cannot think of a single incident without forced entry. As I described in a post about the typical burglary… (a post which has generated dozens of emails from all over the world telling me that their burglary in Dallas, Bangalore, Moscow, Los Angeles and everywhere in between, happened exactly as I described) entry is most often gained by kicking in the front or back door, using a small screwdriver or crowbar to pry the door just enough to allow a strong kick to break the door frame.
As I mentioned in the CBC story, most residential burglars are not very industrious people. They are looking for the simplest way to get into, and out of, a home. Most are motivated by getting their hands on cash, and things that can be easily turned into cash quickly, rather than simply for the challenge of breaking in. When all that it takes to get into most homes is a strong kick, why bother trying to beat the lock… either by picking it or bumping it?
Your security is in your redundancy… to the extent that you are relying exclusively on your locks to keep you safe, and have not implemented any other security measures, bumpkeys should be enough to push you to take a harder look at what you are relying on.
Provided that you have your burglar alarm armed (and that it has been properly designed and installed), your alarm is going to trip as soon as the door opens, whether the door is being kicked in or the lock is being bumped. As a result, bumpkeys do not really pose a greater threat to you if you have taken other basic security precautions… most importantly having a monitored burglar alarm with immediate response.
You cannot make it physically impossible to break into your home, but you can ensure that you minimize your risk of loss. In my experience, the most important security initiative that can be taken is to ‘five-minute proof‘ your most precious belongings. (Of course, if you do not live in Vancouver and/or are not a Provident client, you need to learn what the response time to your alarm is likely to be by the Police and/or your security company… and then protect your belongings to that level.)