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I wonder how secure my deadbolt lock is.

How difficult is it for a professional to open such a lock?

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As a point of reference, it's my understanding that the high-security lock industry (think Medco and the like) rate their locks by how long it's supposed to take an appropriately equipped adversary to open the lock without a key. I'm given to understand that even for high-security locks, the rating is only something like 15 minutes. –  Michael Kohne Dec 5 '10 at 18:11
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As an addendum to Michael's comment, this is a great reason to keep your entryway clear of shrubs and well lit. That's 15 minutes a stranger has to stand in front of your door clearly looking suspicious. –  Doresoom Dec 6 '10 at 14:33
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Do you have windows in your house without shatter sensors? Most burglars look for the easiest point of access, your windows are probably more of a concern than the deadbolt. –  Tester101 Dec 6 '10 at 17:09
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@Doresoom - If you have the typical kwikset/schlage lock, a person with a bump key will be able to open the lock in less than 10 seconds. Not saying that keeping your entry well lit is not a good idea, but you have to set your expectations realistically. Search on youtube for bump key videos to give you an idea of how easy it is to bypass a standard lock. –  James Van Huis Dec 7 '10 at 0:00
    
Just search youtube for Lock bumping. Videos like this (youtube.com/watch?v=SP920ttSctU) show a "high security" Medeco lock being bumped in ~20 seconds. There's another one of a 12-year old girl doing it as well. –  gregmac Dec 9 '10 at 18:19

7 Answers 7

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Any lock can be opened. The questions are:

  • How long will it take?
  • How much skill is required?
  • What tools are needed?

Depending on the particular deadbolt, it will be somewhere between trivial and moderately difficult. At some point, anyone who wants to get in will just move to the windows or other weak points.

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and : what evidence will there be afterwords that it had been done? (normally only comes up in insurance claims ... the insurance company claiming that it was impossible to break into cars with electronic locks, and insisting that the person must've given the key to the "thief" or left their keys in the car, and refusing to pay for the loss ... I have no idea if anything similar's ever happened for home owner / renters insurance) –  Joe Dec 10 '10 at 21:01
    
Oah okay so in this case the time would be seconds and the skills required would be at least 2 hands and a child more than 5 years old. The tools could be street street swearer blades you find on the ground for free or $4.99 bump key from the internet. –  Rook Mar 24 '11 at 19:05

In general, a professional is going to be able to open anything you have, because that's what they do all day. The reality though is that with the exception of high security locks like Medeco, it doesn't even take a professional to open them. But you ask about a deadlock, so let me provide some background...

A deadbolt is more about resisting kicking open or using a credit card to slide in and raise the bolt. It's not so much about being harder to pick, as the lock mechanism in it is going to be extremely similar to a normal door handle lock.

The things that really matter in a normal (not a high-security lock) are how tight the tolerances are, and how many pins. For example, the 6 pin Kwikset Titans (aka UltraMax) are quite a bit harder to pick than the 5 pin regular Kwiksets, and a Schlage 5 pin is harder than a Kiwkset 5 pin. But they both are dramatically easier to pick than a Medeco which has additional features to make it much harder to pick.

However, bump keys can make most traditional locks quite easy to open. And anyone who has time and space to drill can get in to pretty much anything. And don't forget: putting a strong lock next to a window may just mean the window gets broken.

One thing you may want to consider is putting a high security lock on your house may advertise to thieves that you have something you particularly want to protect.

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Children pick locks. –  Rook Mar 24 '11 at 19:06

Absolutely. Anyone with a bump key or lockpick can open a deadbolt.

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Anyone with a hammer can open a deadbolt ;) –  Mike Bethany Dec 5 '10 at 18:57
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And if that fails - get a bigger hammer. –  John Gardeniers Dec 7 '10 at 23:25
    
It's not quite that easy, it does require quite a bit of practice, so I wouldn't say anyone with a lock pick can open a deadbolt. But once I had an experienced locksmith show me how, I can open most regular locks in under 5 minutes. –  Sean Reifschneider Dec 9 '10 at 17:44

Bottom line is that if someone wants to get into your house .... they can. I've never seen a fool proof system. It's a matter of time and noise. A locksmith can make as much noise as they need to because they've been hired to get through a deadbolt, whereas a criminal wants to draw as little attention to themselves as possible.

Deadbolts are harder to open and they're rather noisy compared to a normal lock so a criminal would have to take alot more time attempting to get it open.

For myself, I feel very secure with my deadbolt system and don't worry about anyone picking the lock to get in.

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In one of my previous roles I used to teach team members how to pick locks, and now it is legal in the UK to carry a set it is always useful in an emergency. Typically I could teach a novice in under an hour how to pick most locks. This includes locks with deadbolts. The upside (and the reason the police let us carry picks now) is that almost no criminals use them - they either use a handy half brick, or open doors which aren't locked. So you should feel safe about your lock, but just because statistically most people who break into houses will break something instead :-) –  Rory Alsop Dec 10 '10 at 14:24

A couple of tips for making it harder to pick a lock:

  • Keep the lock well lubricated. This prevents some of the pins from becoming stuck at the shear line (meaning that they are effectively already picked).
  • Install the lock upside down, so the jaggy side of the key goes in facing down instead of up. A locksmith friend of mine said he found they are harder to pick upside down, and my experience is the same.

Beyond getting a better lock (higher quality, more pins, higher security design), these may be alternatives for slowing someone down.

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Given that any lock just slows someone down, why not have a lobby with both the inside and the outside door locked. Put an alarm sensor in the lobber, but the control panel inside the 2nd door, this it is likely that the alarm will go off before the 2nd lock is picked.

(It is even more likely you will drop your keys on night and have the alarm go off before you can unlock the 2nd door!)

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Funny Enough!...In most situations it would be much faster to break the lock (or at least force the gate open), rather than actually spending time picking the lock. This changes the times to seconds not minutes!.. I have made a very ugly example to illustrate.

enter image description here

In many cases the frame of the gate is has enough torsion/flexibility, that applying a wedge between the outer frame and inner frame (ie the gap where the lock pin goes into the door frame) and opening the gap will simply "Jimmy" the lock open.

The Right hand picture shows a typical prevention of this where lateral support is added in to improve the lateral strength of the gate frame (provided the end opposite to the lock is butted against the other end of the frame.

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