Archive for April, 2009

An MMS labeled ‘Offen!’ late in the evening ….

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009 lockpick competition 2009, opened by Jos Weyers

Last week at the Amsterdam Toool meeting Jos and I experimented with the so called ‘Gemini make up key’ (also called ‘the gemini egg’). It is the round object in the upper right corner of the image. We came quite far opening lock 26 of our competition. But ‘quite far’ does not count, only a real opening does. Last night I received an MMS message from Jos with the title ‘Offen!’, showing he finally managed to open the Gemini at the Toool Eindhoven meeting. And end up with a working key ….

For people who do not know this lock: Han wrote an excellent article on the Gemini (.pdf)

More details soon …

Kwikset Smart Key Decoder by Shane Lawson

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Kwikset Smart Key Decoder – Shane Lawson from Deviant Ollam on Vimeo.

Building a decoder for the Kwikset Smartkey lock for around US$ 5.00

Not bad for a couple of fools 🙂

* update: Steffen saved the video file and even upgraded the quality quite a bit.

Nice site on lock forensics

Monday, April 20th, 2009

I have good memories about being in court … as an expert witness on locks.

It is nice to be able to shed some light on a difficult problem and make the difference. The few cases I have been in court it was all about the insurance company not willing to pay. They claimed cars could not have been stolen because of very advanced anti-theft immobilizers and locks that could not have been opened without any signs of damage. In all cases Han Fey and me were involved they lost the case or paid straight away after reading our testimony.

screenshot of

There is no such thing as opening a lock without a scratch, as all mechanical tools to do so will leave marks. The problem for people looking for marks is that they should be aware of all opening techniques and tools. Each tool or technique leaves a different mark, and some marks can be really really subtle! And since there are a lot of techniques (some more known then others!), the knowledge of the forensic expert should be very wide.

So I am always keeping an eye out for information on forensics, and recently received a link to

It is a very nice source of information on this topic. Worth your time, so take a look …

So you think you know your keys?!?

Monday, April 13th, 2009

A small challenge: do you have any idea what this key was used for?

10 points if you know what this key was used for ...

If you need help: here is a little hint

And the answer can be found here

* I am not 100% sure about the facts in the article, but we can discuss about that in the comments …

** Thanks to Nicholas Lennox for the link to this nice article

Toool credit card emergency pickset V2.0

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

Toool emergency credit card size pickset V2.0

Babak Javadi of did it again. He improved the design of the ‘last hope’ credit card size emergency pickset, and came out with a version 2.0. The previous set was just fine to me, but some people complained the metal was a little too thin (read: people were bending their picks). And the previous card was made and designed in a rush, and Babak could not incorporate all his ideas in it yet.

This has all changed in version 2.0 of the credit card sized pickset. Excellent quality steel, very nice serrated tensioners(!) and broken out picks can be put on your keyring.

Jos Weyers of Toool Amsterdam was kind enough to be the guinea pig and try the set for you. See him pick a toool competition lock with the new picks and rake open another one in this youtube video.

About the safe opening weekend (next one in 1 month!)

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

As promised some information on the safe opening weekend organized by Paul Crouwel and friends:

Paul picking a safe lock

As any safe technician can tell you, there are not that many ‘penetration parties’ where lots and lots and lots and lots of high quality bank safes are waiting to be opened. In that respect Paul Crouwels parties are pretty unique. Parties like that are the ultimate learning experience, better then any class on the subject. Sure, there are people giving classes in safe opening, but sometimes that is nothing more then a sales pitch for safe opening tools. A sales pitch you have to pay a lot of money for to attend.

Back to the safe opening event: in safe opening it is all about experience. The best safecrackers are the ones that have the most experience, or with the best connections to people who can tell you what the internals of the target safe most likely will look like. In previous events the strategy to open safes was to drill a hole on a strategical place in the safe. This sounds easier as it is, and I always admire the craftsmanship that is needed to pull it off. Just think about it: you need to picture what is inside the safe and then try to drill away the element that keeps the safe locked, or in case of a combination lock drill until you are inside the heart of the lock and set the code by looking into it with a scope. Being off by a millimeter can cause you big trouble, not to mention the glass plates that can set off ‘relockers’ if hit (shattered) by a drill. If this happens, the safe will lock up, and even the original key and combination will not open it anymore (a mechanism to win time, safes that have the relockers fired can take a looong time to open).

As I mentioned before, at this event we tried to shift from drilling to picking and decoding safes. Just as with opening standard locks, there is nothing like opening a high security safe without a scratch. To do so requires the right tools, and Jord Knaap is becoming really good at making safe opening tools. His hand made Hobb’s picks are just as good, and sometimes better, as the stuff that is available commercially on the market. And Paul Crouwel was the first one to pick open a safe at the weekend. In about fifteen minutes the door of this monster safe swung open without a scratch. Later Paul tried his luck (skill) on another safe, but when it did not open in fifteen minutes decided to go for a smoke. When he came back, master lockpicker Julian Hardt was kind enough to have picked it open for him. Later that day Julian would repeat the job and pick open the lock on a heavy rosengrens safe.

Jord decoding 14 lever lock

Now, picking safe locks is one thing, decoding them is another. We were intrigued by learning about a defect in a specific safe lock that will allow you to ‘decode’ (or ‘read’) the combination of the levers. In short: all levers have different shapes, and if you can see part of the lever you can tell its combination. This requires a thin scope and a so called set up key. A set up key is a key that can be set to combination by inserting little pins that will lift the levers to a specific height. The key on this image is hand made by Jord Knaap. All preparations to open a safe this way were done in the weeks/days before the event. So it was a highly experimental exercise, but a very successful one. Jord could see the image of the levers on a small screen, while the other people could see it on a big external screen. Because for them it was a new technique it took them two hours to pull it off, but the result was an open and undamaged safe. And knowing the code of the setup key, a new key can be cut easily.

I could go on for a long time, as the event went on for three days. A lot of safes were opened, and more important: people had a lot of fun while doing it. Antique safes were opened and some more modern ones were opened. Images and measurements of each opening were recorded, and hundreds of images were shot. Some of them will be available on Paul Crouwels website (behind a password, safe technicians only). Locks were removed from drilled safes and will be used for practicing or turned into cut-away models. Under strict supervision there even was half an hour were the next generation safecrackers was instructed how real men open safes. During the weekend around thirty people participated. I would especially like to thank our new Greek friends for their attendance. It is always a pleasure meeting new people who invest time and money to learn new techniques and make new friends. Hopefully we will meet them at the next penetration party in one month!

That is right: In one month there will be yet another penetration party (May 1-2-3). Over thirty closed high security safes will be waiting for you. Paul asked me to specifically say the party is not an open house for everyone to attend. The invitation is for safe techs and savta members only. They will verify before you are allowed in. And if you attend and do not want (your techniques) to be mentioned on this blog that is fine too. I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised by the level of expertise and fun atmosphere at the event. Mail if you want to attend …