Archive for December, 2006

Guess what I got for Christmas? A Safe!

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

And a very nice one too. Well, it is not actually a safe, it’s a secure
storage container. The US military uses them to store sensitive
documents and goods inside their facilities. The main objective of
this container is to make surreptitious entry as difficult as
possible. Therefore it is equipped with a sargent & greenleaf 8550
‘manipulation proof’ lock. The lock is protected from all four sides
by special ‘hardplate’ metal to prevent people drilling the lock.

A nice metal plate on the side of the drawer gives all the details of
what else this container is secure against. And there is nice sheet of paper with
schematics and part numbers on the inside of the locking mechanism.

The safe comes with a magnetic sticker that on one side says ‘OPEN’
and on the other side ‘CLOSED’. This is so the operator of the safe
can see in one view if a safe is closed or open (duh).

I tried googling around for this model for 15 minutes or so an could
not find it online.

There are some things that are not clear yet. For example, the
container comes with a transparent plastic cover to put over the dial.
Is this to protect the dial against dust? Or is there another purpose?

dial cover

And on the front of the container the weight is noted in big letters.
Is this because it is used in an environment where balance is
important? Like an airplane or submarine? Again, we don’t know.

But I thank good old Santa for his nice present!

Feedback of readers is of course very welcome …

Competition locks from Spain and Israel

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

Shahar from Israel mailed me and asked if we were interested in Israeli
locks for the competition. A silly question: Of course we are!

competition locks 2007

He was very kind and to send us nine (!) locks. All very nice ones
too. As you can see on the image the brands are: Peled, Yardeni,
Nabob, Mul-T-Lock and ‘5:5’. Some of these brands I have heard of
before but never had the pleasure of picking them, while others are
completely new to me.

El_Gorgon from Spain send us an odd looking oval lock. It is the
middle lock on the picture above. The brand name is CVL (Cerrajera
Valle Leniz) and is also completely new to me.

Thanks a lot for sending the locks in El_Gorgon and Shahar!

I am looking very forward trying to pick these locks January 3…

Rolls Royce wheelcaps … what a great story …

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

I was in good old Sneek last weekend. Gea was celebrating her
fortieth birthday and we had lots of fun. It was already late when a
good friend joined the party. He is a locksmith who’s name I will not

He was complaining to have sat on his knees for two hours, desperately
trying to pick the lock of a … wheelcap! It seems Rolls Royce
are popular amongst collectors and thieves, and Rolls Royce
decided to put a semi-serious lock on them. And the owner of the Rolls
lost his keys, calling my poor friend to help.

Rolls Royce wheelcap

The locksmith found out the hard way it was not easy to pick. I even
had difficulties with it when the cap was on the table. The sad part
is he agreed a low price before picking the lock, since the owner was
not willing to spend any money on it. Typical behavior of rich people
(but that is another story).

rolls royce wheelcap

The poor locksmith never thought it would take him two hours to open
that silly little lock. When he opened it, he took it back to his
shop to make a key to open the other three wheelcaps. He will try
impressioning, and if that does not work he will disassemble the lock.

When my friend told the story I asked him to get the wheelcap from his
van to make some pictures for this weblog. At the time I thought it
was a great story. When I woke up the next morning (afternoon) I had
an headache and was less enthusiast about this ‘great story for the blog’.


I hope you still find it an entertaining story and like the pictures….

Military grade padlocks and the ‘seven parts’ rule…

Friday, December 15th, 2006

I do not know if there is any truth to the story, but it is nice to
tell anyway. The story is that guns and rifles never have more then
seven ‘basic parts’. The reason for this is that soldiers will be
confused and make mistakes if the need to clean or repair the gun and
there are more then seven parts.

I hear you think, what does this have to do with locks?

7 parts

Well … besides guns the army also makes use of locks. Locks in
high-security environments. One of the requirements for these locks is
that the core can be replaced ‘in the field’. In case of a missing key,
or suspicion the key is compromised the core of the lock needs to be
replaced asap. Of course they could replace the entire lock, but at
the cost of US$ 1.200 each this is even over the top for the US army.
It is much cheaper to only change the core of the lock.

In order to have people change the core in the field, the locks are
constructed with the ‘maximum of seven parts’ rule in mind.

Han Fey has got some of these real high security padlocks in his
collection. The top model being the Sargent and Greenleaf 833. The
nice thing about this S&G 833 is that it is protected against a wide
range of attacks.

To secure it against manipulation the lock contains a six pin Medeco
Bi-Axial core. Good luck picking or manipulating that …

But what is real special are the ceramic inserts. These strategically
placed strips of hard ceramics prevent cutting and grinding. Last toool
evening by accident a ceramic expert was present. He looked at the
ceramic material and concluded is could probably not even be cut with
diamond drills or grinders. He was impressed by it. Pretty neat.

The S&G 833 is also the only padlock in the world (?) that will resist
an attack with liquid nitrogen. The idea behind this attack is to keep
a lock dipped in liquid nitrogen for 30 minutes, cooling the metal
close to -196 degree Celsius. All other metal objects will shatter if
that cold and hit with a hammer. But not this lock. Supposably the
metal alloy is designed to be secure against this. Unbelievable …

And last but not least all parts of (the military version of) this
lock have a serial number stamped into it. This is to prevent people
‘peeling’ the lock layer by layer until they reached the core. With
the naked core in front of you it is not too difficult to disassemble
it and see the size and rotation angle of the pins. Once an attacker
knows these parameters he makes a key for the lock, rebuilds the core
and inserts it in a fresh padlock. But with codes punched into
different parts of the lock this attack is not made easy.

And last but not least Han shows a military version of an Abloy padlock.

I hope you enjoy another exclusive blackback video on military grade padlocks (10 minutes, WMV 79 Mb)

New competition locks coming in …

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

Tonight was another Toool night in Amsterdam. The last this year. We
already collected some locks that are very likely candidates to become
the official 2007 competition locks. But still locks are coming in by
mail, and on January 3 we will make the final selection. I shot some
video of the locks that came in so far for those interested. (WMV 25 Mb)
litto belgium

Django offered me something as well tonight. I have been thinking for a long time
if I should mention it on this blog or not. It was just too funny to let pass …

Kassa video clip online now …

Saturday, December 9th, 2006

The clip is available online now. Paul did real well, and the ’safe
cracking clips’ turned out ok. At the end Paul was challenged to break
open a safe live on camera, with the clock ticking. Not my cup of tea…
But all in all not a bad item and my compliments to Paul.
The (long) clip can be downloaded here (99 Mb, WMV, 13 Minutes)

An overview of the safes that were tested can be found on the Kassa website.

Since I do not know how long the info will be available there, here is the list:
Protector Electronic Dial (€108), Home Safe (Praxis €59,95), Guard M80E (Karwei
€ 49), Dura Lock S23EL (Karwei € 49,95), Electronic Digital Safe (Kijkshop € 39,99)
and Dura Lock FS30MD (Gamma € 99).

Cracking safes on demand (Part 2)

Saturday, December 9th, 2006

… Looking at this table and camera setup I talked with Paul Crouwel, the
safe technician I came with. The original idea was to do this little
test under the flag of Toool. Paul would say something about the safes
and the way they were constructed and I would talk about the quality
of the locks. But this camera setup, and the content of the safe
(monopoly money and a pearl necklaces) proved the TV makers still
wanted to shoot the test as if it was a real time burglary. This was
reason enough to let Paul Crouwel do the test on his own. A real pity,
I would have loved to pick these locks and say something about them…

safe test part 2

The results of the test can be seen today for those of you who can
receive Dutch television (NL 1 18:55). Besides testing the safes on
being burglary proof they were also tested to see how well they could
handle being dropped from great heights as well being set on fire.
(unfortunately not at the same time, that would have been real
spectacular television 😉

And for the record: Paul Crouwel normally never ever ever opens this
kind of low quality safes. He is a real specialist that mainly focuses
on high security safes. And he is one of the few people I know that on
a regular basis opens bank and post office safes. He invests a lot of
time and money in keeping up to date with safe technology and even
tries to open these high security safes without damaging them. For
this he uses a method known as ‘manipulation’, that was also covered
during the Sneek lectures. For this he constantly purchases the best
of the best materials and spends hours a day practising with it.

The latest tool in his toolbox is a manipulation aid from the UK.
Special hardware and software that will help determine what numbers
are in a safe combination, and what wheel you are working on. I shot
some video when the tool was demonstrated in Sneek (Video 17 Mb WMV).

To come back to the test: I can’t wait to see what they made of it.
Paul Crouwel will be live in the studio tonight and comment on the
test results. Needless to say I will make the video available asap on this site…

Cracking safes on demand … (part 1)

Friday, December 8th, 2006

The media … if you let them they will always try to use our
knowledge to make spectacular items. I was contacted a couple of days
ago by one of the most popular consumer television programs in the
Netherlands. They wanted to know if Toool could help them test safes.
Of course we are willing to do that, but only if it is done in a
decent, professional way.

I can not say too much about the test since it is not aired yet, but
you can imagine what happened. They wanted to shoot video in a big
house in witch every room had a (hidden) safe. To make an interesting
item, the ‘Toool safecrack brigade’ had to go from room to room,
cracking the safes and collecting the ‘valuables’. Needless to say I was
very against being portrait as safecracking burglars. That is not what
we are and this is not the image I think we should willingly help build.

safe test

After some negotiating we agreed to do the test in a ‘normal’ studio.
The only request they had was if we could dress in black. When we
arrived at the studio it was an empty hall that was really really dark.
The only light came from some little spot lights that where aimed on a
table with one of the safes on it. This safe had some ‘valuables’ in it.

To be continued tomorrow ….

Toool Eindhover video online (in Dutch)

Thursday, December 7th, 2006

Volkskrant (a Dutch newspaper) is now also providing online video clips.
They visited Toool Eindhoven and made the following video clip. Well done!

The Russian Rant …

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

I guess I will postpone my vacation to Russia for a little while…


In the comments of the Russian lock article an interesting discussion
was taking place. People who call themselves a Russian lockpick
sportgroup, fans of locks and lock manufacturer had spicy comments
about me. They did try to invite themselves to the entire Dutch Open
weekend. I kindly told them people I never met before are not welcome
to the closed part. I guess this was one of my best decisions this
year (so far).

It took them a little while, but now they found a reason why they were
not welcome: I am on the payroll with ASSA abloy group and am nothing
more then a puppet on ASSA abloy strings. In their fantasy story they
drag in Russian thiefs, the Mafia, the KGB and even narcotic abuse.

Truth of the matter is I think they are just disappointed.
Disappointed I did not want to be the ‘independent expert’ to publicly
scrutinize the Yale lock that competes with them on the Russian
market. Personally I could not care less if it can be bumped or not.
If a company wants to hire me to publicly attack competitors locks I
kindly say no. It is just not ethical. If I was in it for the money I
would have gladly accepted, but I did not. And of course they are
disappointed they could not bluff their way into Sneek. I assume in
their area they do not hear the word NO often.

All in all it is a very sad rant. And for me they show not to be
security professionals. Professionals do not get carried away by
emotions, but act … professional. The way they personally attack me
on me being a little bit too heavy is also rather … sad.
And for the record: I do not smoke…. never did.

Coming back to being on the payroll of ASSA Abloy: I have an income
and do not need support from anyone. And I take pride not to be ‘for
sale’. If you make such claims please back them up with facts. There
simply are none because I am always very careful when it comes to
taking money from the lock industry. Even when testing locks for the
biggest and richest lock companies I rather receive a nice cut-away
lock instead of money. And all the companies I work with know that I
will not hesitate to publicly show attacks to their locks if I
discover them. Of course I will give them 3-6 months time to fix it.
But I will always publish them.

All in all a very sad attempt to damage me and my reputation. So far I
think it only works counter productive. In showing this unprofessional
attitude, and publicly complaining I do not want to be hired to test
the competitors locks as an ‘independent expert’ for them.

And the website they put up. It is weird. They seem to be in war with
the entire world. Look at the ‘independent lock fan group’ handing out
heads of pigs as trophies… brrrr …. it gives me the shivers.

I can advise everyone to at least look at this link and click around a little: (* Mirror)

For me this is the end of this conversation. Unless there are claims I
feel are worth to comment on I will not spend time on these people
with their tinfoil hats and conspiracy theories. For me this case is
closed. I only deal with rational professionals.

(* that was fast … minutes after my postings the russian pages went down. Here is a mirror)

(** that was even faster …. site is back up again. Was it a glitch or they figured it was no use?)