by Doug Chick
Posted on Thu 15 January 2004 in hacking
Lock picking has become an odd diversion for many computer people for sport and hobby. With lock picking contests at such events as DefCon and HOPE, the need to push pins with your peers is slowly moving through computer groups with interesting enthusiasm. And it's far more than just picking locks. The 'sport' includes cracking combinations, push button door locks, electric key cards, and just about anything that has a lock to it. Lock picking sports groups are beginning to spring up in the U.S., the fastest growing groups are within the computer industry. Most computer people are fascinated with unlocking codes, bypassing security protocols and finding program vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Picking locks and cracking combinations are no different.
When I say that computer people have taken up the hobby of lock picking, I don't mean to suggest that they are breaking into people's homes or cars. Steel bolt hacking is nothing more than the challenge of picking locks in a legal and competitive manner. The only locks that are picked or combinations that are cracked are from locks that have been purchased for nothing more than the challenge of opening them with alternative methods.
In my opinion, I think that the fascination with picking steel locks, at least from a computer person's standpoint, is the physical manifestation of its digital counter part, computers. Picking a lock is like solving a puzzle in much the same way it is to solve computer or networking issues, with the exception that you can physically touch a lock. As a computer professional, you develop computer skills that allow you to quickly fix problems based on experience. Picking locks presents the same challenges and taxes your memories from previous lock picking exercises. The fun of lock picking or combination cracking can very well be an occupational hazard in the daily routine of problem solving. Many computer people use the excuse of learning how to hack computers on the premise that you can't protect your own network if you don't know the tricks of a hacker. You can also apply that to lock picking if you need to, I suppose. But the fact of the matter is, lock picking is a very competitive sport that is extraordinarily fun and can be extremely addictive. Much like when you were first introduced to computers, understanding how locks work is just as interesting to you as learning how computers work.
The interest in cracking a combination lock is similar to the interest in cracking a Rubik's cube. Picking locks and cracking combinations is just another puzzle to solve, another challenge to test your brain and another way to measure yourself against your peers. Lock picking is accomplished by the manipulation of the lock by using your touch and listening to the bounce of pins and sometimes the smell of oil to the turn of the plug. There are recognizable parallels between the electronic computer realm and the real world of physical security. Finding and locating weak spots and vulnerabilities are what computer people enjoy best. So mechanical security, such as steel bolt hacking, is understandably just as interesting.
With the invasion of computer people into the art of lock picking, it is splintering off from the conventional locksmiths terms and methods into a realm of its own. And many locksmiths are not happy with seeing their craft in the hands of amateurs. Like with every new convention, terms are change, methods are renamed and tools are forged to fit a different hand. Like the phrase, Steel bolt hacking. To a computer person this might mean to pick a lock, to a locksmith it may sound a lot like using a hacksaw. Already I've received some nasty messages about trying to adapt computer slang to locksmith terms and they simply don't like it.
As more and more computer people enter into the art of lock picking, old world terms and new age techno babble will clash and turn lock picking toward a slightly different direction. Whether some locksmiths like it or not, computer people are going to redesign the landscape of what locksmiths know as lock picking.
If you are interested it lock picking and want to look into a group near you, go to
Extreme Media "Your source for information on hard to find subjects" HackersCatalog.com
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