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Lock Bumping and Bump Keys

Have you heard the recent news reports about “lock bumping” and “bump keys”?

What is Lock Bumping?

Lock bumping is a lock picking technique for opening a pin tumbler lock using a specially-crafted bump key. One bump key will work for all locks of the same type.

How Does a Bump Key Work?

A lock is composed of a series of spring-loaded stacks called pin stacks. Each pin stack is composed of at least two pins that are stacked on top of each other: the bottom pin, which touches the key when it is inserted, and the driver pin, which is spring driven. When the proper key is inserted into the lock, all of the bottom pins and driver pins align at the shearline, allowing the cylinder to be turned. When no key or the wrong key is in the lock, the pin misalignment prevents the cylinder from being turned.

When lock bumping, the key is initially placed one notch out along the keyway. Bumping the key inward forces it deeper into the keyway. The specially designed teeth of the bump key force all of the pins in the lock to the top of the lock cylinder from inertia. As the pins travel back to their initial point via the spring pressure on the pins, depending on the amount of turning pressure on the cylinder, they may stop at the shearline and allow the lock to turn open.

Why all the Hype About Bump Keys?

The common pin tumbler lock (as used in over 99% of all household locks today) have been bumped open by locksmiths since the technique was discovered since at least 1926.

However recently, the media – and those looking for their fame – have sensationalized this locksmith’s secret and have published reports and instructions on how to make their own bump keys.

Is Lock Bumping a Serious Threat?

Well, before about 2005, it sure wasn’t. But, since all the news stations have let every viewer see how easy it is to bump a lock, and with web sites selling bump keys for a few dollars, the use of bump keys has become a very credible threat.

In fact, you don’t even need to buy those “bump key kits” from an internet store. You can make a bump key (or “999 key” as they are also known as) from your existing key and a file in a minute or two.

Any lock that uses standard pins inside the lock as the sole method of security are vulnerable to lock bumping — very likely the type of locks you rely on every day.

If My Locks Are Bumped, Won't Insurance Cover the Losses if My Stuff is Stolen?

Maybe. But probably not.

Lock bumping leaves very little evidence. Most insurance companies feel that if there isn’t any physical damage to the premises, then a key was used to gain entry. If you lost a key, it’s your fault you got broken into, and you’re not covered against losses.

But, think beyond the loss of physical property. What if your locks are bumped while you are at home? Now the lives of you and your family are at stake.

How Can I Protect Myself and My Family?

Very good question.

We at Sunshine Locksmith Team feel that the only effective solutions to lock bumping lie in upgrading to a high security lock, or an electronic lock without a conventional lock cylinder.

High Security Locks

Locks made by Kaba, Medeco, Mul-T-Lock, Schlage Primus, BiLock, and others are advertised to be bump resistant.

Sunshine Locksmith Team carries the Medeco M3 line of locks. They are a very effective solution to combat the bump key.

Advantage of Medeco M3
  • The keys are restricted, therefore it is highly unlikely anybody can modify a key as a bump key as the correct keyblanks cannot legally be obtained without permission and/or registration
  • Increased resistance to picking
  • Increased resistance to drilling
  • Increased resistance to unauthorized key duplication
  • Increased resistance to lock bumping

Electronic Locks

Locks requiring a keypad, proximity cards, key fobs, biometrics, or other method of electronic authentication are an excellent way to thwart the bump key.

Sunshine Locksmith Team carries a line of electronic locks. Simply use your credential and the lock opens.

Lock Bumping in the News

Links to More Information

Videos of Lock Bumping

Parts of this article have been taken from Wikipedia’s Lock Bumping article.

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