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3D Printer Defeats Combination Locks (2 VIDEOS)

Posted by Chris Dangerfield on

3D Printer Defeats Combination Locks (2 VIDEOS)

How someone made a nice machine to open combination locks

With any evolving technology, the growth of 3D printing has been accompanied by a wealth of horror stories. In a matter of seconds – it would appear – someone with the right software can ‘print’ a thermonuclear device capable of destroying the world. Such were the quantity and level of paranoia of such stories, I’m surprised I’m even writing this, convinced I’d have been vaporized by now, if not imprisoned by an army of robots printed-off by some Ukrainian teenager who now rules the world.

Thankfully, our demise at the hands of a disgruntled youth with a 3D printer is yet to materialize, and we’re free to continue doing whatever it is we do. This isn’t to say 3D printers are not affecting our lives, and specifically, our lock picking. If you haven’t heard, keys are already being ‘printed’ with these machines. Something worth bearing in mind, since to the trained eye, a key can be ‘read’ quite easily. A set of keys on a table in a restaurant can quite easily be decoded. A photograph of said keys makes this even easier. With a decent lens it wouldn’t be too difficult to – from a distance - take a photo of someone’s keys and glean the required information of not only the cutting code but also the brand of lock. From there it would be a simple matter of 3D printing copies of each key, effectively giving you access to all the locks in the targets house and vehicles. Yet this is not new to 3D printing. This threat was observed a long time ago, since cut keys can be made quite simply with a blank and a file. Looking at your house key I could probably guess it was cut to say 4,5,5,4,3,2 – and say, on a YALE 1A blank. I could then buy said blank and with a little file ‘cut’ the key to 4,5,5,4,3,2 – simple!

So my interest in 3D printing and lock picking soon dried up. A couple of articles about printing bump keys momentarily piqued my interest, but again, this wasn’t sustained since I have made literally 100s of bump keys by hand, and rather enjoyed it too. Also, machines already exist to do this, they’re called key-cutting machines.

Then I found out about Samy Kamkar, the friendly host of You Tube channel ‘Applied Hacking’. At first though, it was nothing to do with 3D printing. Samy had developed a technique that allowed you to ‘read’ or ‘decode’ the combination of Master Combination locks. Most of us know Master Combination locks aren’t the most secure of devices. A firm strike with a hammer, or enough leverage with a large screwdriver will almost certainly free the shackle and provide access to whatever the lock was ‘securing’. But it wasn’t the decoding that interested me – in truth – I already knew how to read a Master Combination lock. As is often the case with such locks, it’s usually a matter of pressing (or the opposite, pulling) the shackle and slowly turning the combination. Small changes in feedback soon give-away the ‘notches’ or other relevant changes relating to the numbers. What got my attention was the small piece of software, the ‘Online Calculator’ that Samy had developed which will allow you to crack any Master Combination Lock in EIGHT attempts or less. (Calculator video below)

It really is lovely. You use Samy’s decoding technique to get a few numbers, input them into his online calculator and boom! You are given the combination. The calculator – via some wicked equations – does the work for you. Nice!

It really is fun – and it works. Get yourself a Master Combination lock and give it a try. It’s fantastic, and will give you a good basis in how such locks work and how to defeat them non-destructively – the perfect foundation for your new journey into safe-cracking – I mean, you have to start somewhere!

Samy’s video was incredibly popular, acquiring literally millions of views in the hyper-competitive world of You Tube. People are interested in this stuff – and rightly so – because although this is only a cheap, relatively unsecure lock, it doesn’t take a genius to work out how this technique and software can be modified and developed to work on more secure locks. It’s all about the principle.

And then Samy went beast mode on us! Some months later he released another video, this time automating the ‘decoding’ out of the process. Samy has invented a machine that does the work, including the maths of the previous online calculator for you – and, you guessed it – the machine is 3D printed! OK, fair enough, it takes some knowledge and experience in electronics, and even if you don’t have this experience it’s still incredibly interesting to watch. You put the lock into the machine, press the ‘start’ button and watch is awe as the machine goes about decoding, then opening the lock. It’s the stuff of Mission Impossible, on your kitchen table.

Yes I am a geek, and yes I am a lock picker, put the two together and Samy’s machine is a work of art, a thing of wonder. And if you’re still reading this, my guess is you’re the kind of person that will be equally impressed by such a thing. So without further ado – here’s the videos…. Enjoy. (This message will self-destruct in 5 seconds!)

The First Video "How to Decode"


The Second Video "The 3D Printed Machine"

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