Archive for August, 2006

Free advice …

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

This weblog is not only about lockpicking, it is also about my life.

I have an interesting hobby. And my work, developing cryptographically
secure non-tapable phones, is a little out of the ordinary too. Both
bring interesting people on my path, and I am very aware of it.

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by some people from a small but
turbulent country on the mediterranean coast. They had some nice locks
and lock technology to show and happened to be in the Amsterdam area
for a couple of days. Curious as I am I decided to meet them. Nice and
friendly people, and the lock and lock technology they showed was
indeed very interesting and entertaining.

All was nice and well until this morning … the phone rings:

I politely answer the phone. It is the person I met a couple of weeks
ago. In a friendly voice he tells me he is back home and a package is
on it’s way with some more locks. His second question caught me off
guard: They where looking for someone who could ‘open doors throughout
Europe’ for them. It was obvious they did not meant a 24-hour opening
service kind of job. The payment for these jobs would be good and make
me happy. I told him I am already happy and in no way interested in
being recruited for some foreign organisation to do their dirty work.
When I tried to end the call he persistently asked if I did not knew
other talented people that could help them, or give him other leads
that might be of interest. I had to disappoint him (and his
organisation, whoever they are). And I am still puzzled as to why he
made me this offer over the phone….

 $$$ cash $$$ Free $$$


Many people do not realize the consequences of doing business with
these type of organisations. First they will be friendly and give you
all you can dream of. But at the end of the day you become an
instrument, a pawn in a game where you do not know the rules and can
be sacrificed for a higher goal without the blink of an eye. Not to
mention the famous line: “If things go wrong we don’t know you”.

I did send an e-mail to the Dutch Toool list about this incident, as a
warning. These people are obviously looking for ‘talent’ and pawns for
their game. I would hate to see hobby lockpickers getting in trouble
because of this. I hope you consider this posting as free advice ….


P.S.: I know having a weblog called ‘blackbag’ (slang for illegal
break-in) might be asking for things like this to happen. I hope this
posting makes clear that I am not interested….

From Russia with … love ?!?

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

We sometimes feel we have a Russian fanclub.

But to be honest, the people behind are interesting and ok.
They did put a lot of time and energy in learning to bump locks
themselves, and even bumped locks I had never heard of. Their online
video library is impressive and worth visiting.

consumer reportski

Their motivation to learn and share is sometimes a little over the
top. They shamelessly copy and translate in to Russian everything from
our website. And I mean everything. The complete spoken text of the
‘what the hack’ bumpkey presentation (two hours!) was translated in
Russian and transcribed. Pretty mind boggling to read your own words
in Russian. And I do not even read Russian! I hope they did a better job then
ripping our ‘consumer reports’ report apart. Hours after the results
came out it was translated in Russian and available on their site. We
noticed it was not a one-on-one copy but a modified one. Instead of
the 80 (or so) locks we tested, their list contained over 100 locks. Every
lock we did not open in the test they kindly ‘re-tested’ for us and
mixed in some popular Russian brands as well. So instead of having an
80% success rate with our test their copy of the article had a 120%
one. But still I believe their intentions are ok and they mean well.

So far they have not translated my weblog yet. If they ever do I am
curious how this article will come out …

Toool.US – World domination 2009

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

WOW. When we set up a couple of years ago we could not have
imagined to be where we are now. Lots of people know about our crazy
hobby and passion for locks. And it is good to see our positive
attitude attracts people with the same open mindset. Currently some
very capable and trustworthy people are setting up Toool lockpick
sport clubs in the US. They are very aware of the pitfalls on the
road, and I am sure they will do fine.

They sure know how to build a website and give structure to a club.
Check out the site of Toool.US that went live today!


I am real curious where this is heading…. World domination 2009?!?

To be continued …

Car opening follow up: the BMW 2 track decoder

Friday, August 25th, 2006

Lambert, a Toool Eindhoven member, was kind enough to send me a DVD
with the German RTL item I announced but missed myself. It covers some
interesting car opening techniques. One of them is decoding a brand
new BWM X3. I also demonstrated this German tool at hope number six. I
assume most of you missed that presentation so I combined some video
and mixed in some fresh close ups from the tool. See for yourself: (WMV 76 Mb )

bmw 2 track decoder

The problem with these wafer locks is that they have sloppy
tolerances. Theoretical each individual lever could be in four
different positions. If this really was the case all eight levers in
the lock would create a keyspace of 65.536 possible keys. The big
weakness is that if you cut a key to ‘one and a half’ it will open
both a 1 and a 2 cut. And a key cut to ‘three and a half’ will open
both levers 3 and 4. So instead of four combinations we now have only
two, limiting the total keyspace to a lousy 256 possible keys. To make
things worse each side of the key will only operate four levers
instead of eight. Normally four levers would be good for 256 different
combinations but now that is reduced to 16. This is why it is possible
to have a set of 16 setup keys simulate all key combinations possible
on this specific BMW lock.

Hacking modern cars and car locks

Friday, August 18th, 2006

Testing is fun. Especially testing locks and tools. And it is even
more fun when people claim locks can not be opened and you show it can
be done. Without damaging the locks of course.


I received a mailing (PDF) from the Wendt lock tools company in Germany. As
far as I know they are the biggest and most complete lock opening tool
supplier in Europe (in the world?). I try to visit their yearly ‘open
house’ meeting as often as I can. Walking around there and looking at
all these magnificent tools is always a great pleasure. And their catalog (PDF) is a ‘must read’.

wendt case

They supplied tools and expertise for a big test on cars and car locks
for the famous Auto Bild magazine in Germany. My German is a little
rusty, but here is a rough translation from part of the mailing Wendt send
around a couple of days ago:

“together with us Auto Bild tested in what time modern cars could be
‘hacked open’. The challenge was to open the cars free of damage. We will
not give the exact details of the test but on ten tested models the
results where rather shocking.”

wendt deluxe

I do need to get my hand on this magazine of course. So stay tuned for
a scan. (update 17:00 the magazine was sold out, will try other ways)

An for the people in Europe: an item on German television about this test will be aired Sunday.
To be more precise: Sunday 20.08.06, RTL, SPIEGEL-TV Magazin 22:35

The ‘Russian lock’ ….

Wednesday, August 16th, 2006

I bet you have never seen this lock before.

russian lock

If you have you are either a Russian ‘diplomat’, have worked as a high ranked officer on a
Russian nuclear submarine or operated a nuclear plant there. Or you are a member of Toool or Ssdev.

Little is known about the lock, only that it is (was?) in use at the
most critical parts of the Russian government and military. Fact is
this lock is extremely rare. A US DOD lock specialist has been trying for
years to get his hands on one, without success. He only located three
of these locks in the world. Safe technician Paul Crouwel owns one of
these three locks. He will show you on the ins and outs of this very
special lock in an exclusive blackbag video (wmv 77 Mb).

russian lockinside out

The lock has a seal function. It does not take much force to
break the lock open. The design goal was obviously to prevent
unauthorized and surupticious access. The story we heard was that the
lock was in use at Russian embassies. Instead of importing heavy safes
from Russia they just bought a decent model on the local market. They
secured the entrance of the original key hole with this lock. So in
order to open the safe you first need to get passed this ‘seal lock’.
To open it you need to dial a combination and use a key. So it can also be
used in a system where two people are needed to open a specific safe.
One person knows the combination and will dial it while the other
person only has access to the key and operates it. The other story we
heard was that is was used in nuclear facilities and submarines. But
we do not know for sure. We do know it is a lock with a strong ‘spy vs
spy’ smell.

If you know more about this specific lock we would love to hear from you!

(* More info is available here )
(** and you might want to read the comments …)

Assa Twin key depth decoder

Thursday, August 10th, 2006

I had my eye on this one for a long time. As always it is a simple and
small thing and it is not even expensive. But it can turn out to be
pretty handy from time to time. Especially if you are a big ASSA fan
like myself.

assa twin key card decoder 

This stainless steel card can be used to decode (or ‘read’) ASSA Twin
keys. Just stick the key trough the hole of the card and see how far
down you can slide it. If it will not go any further you have decoded
the cut and can move to the next cut to read it. After having read all
six cuts you decoded the key and can make perfect copies on a
computerized machine. What I like about this card is that it does not
only let you decode the key but will also inform (or remind) you about
the specific characteristics of this ASSA Twin key. Take for instance
rule number seven: Maximum Adjacent Cut (MAC) = 5. I assume this means
two pins next to each other are not allowed to jump up or down more
then 5 depths. I was not aware of that. What about the last line:
Sidebar code on Assa Twin key is always pre-cut at factory. As a
collector of their sidebar profiles I did notice that before …

Besides decoding 600 and 6000 keys this card can also be used to
decode other sidebar key like the Twin2, V10, Twin pro, Max and

If requested I could shoot some video decoding a key for you …

Digging for gold in the patent database

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

There is a lot of people smarter then you. And most of them are dead.
At least that is my impression when digging trough the goldmines of
the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office). Just search for
‘Lock AND pick AND decoder’ or other queries. The results are amazing.
Especially if you go back before 1950.

lock decoder 

(lock decoder 1937 by H. Abrams)

Unfortunately it is not possible to save or print these pieces of
art. Or maybe I am just lazy and did not invest enough time. So I just
took advantage of the ‘analog loophole’ and took a picture of my
screen to show you what to expect on that site. For hours and hours of
fun and education visit:

Happy hunting!

Bumping locks

Friday, August 4th, 2006

Without looking at my stats I clearly see global peeks in awareness of
the bump key problem. All of a sudden I receive a bunch of mail asking
if I am am willing to test locks for company X, whether I am available
for presentations, or if I sell bump keys or the ‘Tomahawk’
bumphammer. Especially the Tomahawk, designed and made by 92 year old
German engineer Kurt Zühlke, seems to be what most people are looking
for. And very often I have to disappoint them. Kurt does not make a
whole lot of them, and the ones I get my hands on I trade or give

tomahawk by kurt

In my latest presentations I also demonstrate a new type of hammer by
Jens Andrews. This so called ‘power hammer’ is made of … shoe sole.
It has turned out to be an excellent tool for the job. I like it and
need it sometimes when that little ‘extra power’ is needed to let pins
jump. Jens uses a rather expensive and delicate technique to glue
multiple strips of shoe sole together to create a hammer this accurate
and almost indestructible. I will relay mail to him if you are interested in one.

 power hammer by jens andrews

The lock (tools) industry has also discovered money can be made
selling bump hammers. At the ALOA locksmith tradeshow in Las Vegas
last month I noticed some vendors where selling commercial bump
hammers. Some of them even sold complete keyrings with 999 keys for
the most popular US lock brands. Peterson manufacturers designed a
hammer called ‘Tommy Hawk‘. This nylon hammer has two holes in the
back. These holes can be filled with lead or sand to give it extra
weight. At first I was afraid the hammer would not have the mass
needed to transfer the right amount of energy. But it proved to be
almost as good as the original Tomahawk.

tommy the hawk

Consumers in the US are starting to realize there is a problem with
their locks. Newsweek did an article on bumping and it is causing a peek here….

Let the games begin!

Tuesday, August 1st, 2006

Steffen Wernéry, chairman of the German sportgroup Ssdev, is a busy man
these days. He is organizing the German lockpick championships. And
that is quite a task. I know what it is like because I am responsible
for organizing the ‘Dutch Open‘ lockpick championships. And it always
takes more time and energy as you might expect.

Anyway, the German sportgroup invites you and the rest of the world to
come and compete in their ‘open’ game. And who knows … you could be
the new German lockpick champion!

games (Dutch Open 2005) 


The location they picked is really wonderful: the worldfamous lock
museum in Velbert
(Germany). This year the event is extra special
since it will be the tenth anniversary of the games and the seventieth
of the museum .

Hope to see you there October 14th and 15th (10 am to 6 pm)

Read more about the location, type of games, hotel arrangements etc in this invitation.