As promised some information on the safe opening weekend organized by Paul Crouwel and friends:
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to attend …