The deadbolt-lock industry was rocked 3 years ago when news stories and YouTube videos brought widespread attention to lock bumping—the common locksmithing method of opening a residential door lock with something called a bump key.
But before you run out to buy new locks for your home, you should know that the issue has been sensationalized somewhat. It’s difficult to discretely bump a lock in a high-traffic area, and it’s not something a person would be likely to pull off without practice. Experts tell us that most burglars are more apt to simply break a window.
But the fact of the matter is that bump keys are widely available on the Internet, or they can be made from a regular house key. This type of key can open any standard pin tumbler lock in seconds, experts say—as long as someone has developed the right technique. Bump keys got their name because turning such a key in a lock the right way and “bumping” the back of the key with a small hammer can cause all of the pins to be forced into alignment—and the door to be unlocked. Any lock that uses pin tumblers without a secondary mechanical locking system—95 percent of all U.S. residential locks—is bumpable.
“When a 15-year-old kid can open your door in 10 seconds with a key he bought on the Internet for $2, that’s a problem,” says security expert Marc Weber Tobias, who is widely credited with blowing the whistle on lock-bumping in 2006.
In November, following a year of debate, American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) announced the first standard for measuring a lock’s bump protection. ASTM will award different grades—6 being the best—depending on how many consecutive times that a deadbolt resists a bump attempt from a panel of testers. As of press time, MasterLock’s BumpStop ($30) deadbolt is the lone deadbolt to receive ASTM’s highest rating, which means that it couldn’t be bumped in 1,800 tries.
Kwikset’s 2-year-old SmartKey ($30) has not yet been tested by ASTM. But we expect that it also will receive a Grade 6 rating after it has, because it uses five un-bumpable internal sliding pieces rather than common pin tumblers.
We believe that this standard is important, because you now can determine how bump-proof a lock will be. But the better news is that these high-security deadbolts, which cost $150 or more 3 years ago, are now available for as little as $30. We believe that ASTM’s standardization all but ensures that other such locks will begin appearing on the market in the next year or 2.
“It’s a pretty good start,” says Gary Nunes, who owns Expert Lock and Security in Arlington Heights, Ill. “However, the locks still have to be properly installed. If the latch isn’t properly adjusted on the frame, or the deadbolt doesn’t extend all the way to the lock, you’re still looking at a problem.”
PUNCH IT IN. Meanwhile, the keypad deadbolt marketplace has seen a handful of innovations over the past year.
Most recent is Schlage’s LiNK electronic keypad deadbolt ($299), which is the only residential deadbolt entry lock that you can open, secure or monitor remotely through an Internet connection.
You still can open the lock in person with an access code or an actual key, but LiNK also can be controlled via any Internet-enabled device. It includes the same technology that is used in many appliances and other devices to permit those products to communicate with a home computer and each other.
That connectivity also makes the lock a monitoring device. For $12.99 per month, you can use an Internet connection to see whether the lock has been opened—today or as far back as 90 days ago. If you expect your child to come home at 4:15 p.m., for instance, you can look at the data online to make sure that he/she arrived. LiNK also will alert you via e-mail if someone tries to force his/her way into your home.