Key Bumping Solutions

Think of the recent key-bumping media frenzy as an opportunity to educate your customers and the general public on the value of high security locks.


Key bumping has created quite a buzz lately and a huge opportunity for locksmiths and security professionals. I can speak from first hand experience that consumers are quite aware that there is a problem and they want answers. As I field phone calls in the Medeco/Arrow Technical Support...


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Second, law enforcement must become more involved in dealing with this problem. Right now bump keys are available for sale online to anyone, and can be shipped through the U.S. Mail with no restrictions whatsoever. Bump keys are burglary tools and should be recognized as such. Trouble is, the authorities are generally unaware of what bump keys look like and how they operate. More education in the law enforcement community is urgently needed. To their credit, ALOA, the Builders Hardware Manufacturer’s Association, and The National Crime Prevention Council are taking steps to educate their members, law enforcement, postal authorities, and the public to this emerging threat.

Third, we must find ways to encourage change within the security industry. Recognition of the bump attack in high security standards would be a great step forward. UL, ANSI and BHMA do not currently test locks to determine if they can be bumped. A benchmark level of resistance needs to be established in order rate high security locks for susceptibility. The addition of bump resistance testing to the current ANSI/BMHA 156.3-2003 and UL 437 standards would provide consumers with information necessary to make a more informed decision when choosing a lock for their home or business.

With all that said, let’s look at how high security locks can thwart bumping attempts. Perhaps the biggest advantage that high security locks have is that they offer several layers of protection which all work in conjunction with each other.

One of the key ingredients in the bumping recipe is the key itself. Most instructions on the internet start by modifying a key blank into a bump key. The majority of locks out there do not offer any type of protection from unauthorized key duplication and key blanks are readily available on the open market. High security key blanks are not as widely distributed as standard key blanks. Those protected by utility patents are even more limited in their distribution. If you can’t get the blank, it’s harder to make a bump key.

How about modifying an existing key into a bump key? Again, without the proper key cutting equipment this would be difficult. Using a file to modify a high security key is theoretically possible, but usually doesn’t produce the accuracy that high security locks require – especially when you are trying to make a key function properly when it is not designed specifically for that lock.

Besides, the key is only one part to the high security puzzle. Secondary locking mechanisms such as rotating discs, angled cuts, side bittings, pin-in-pins, sidebars and security pins are extremely difficult to defeat using a bumping attack. This is because these mechanisms typically do not use the same type of motion that is used to split the pin tumblers as the bumping attack. For example, bottom pins in a Medeco 3 cylinder must not only be elevated to the proper height, their spacing is variable and they must be rotated into a specific position in order for the legs of the secondary locking sidebar to engage a special slot in each pin. The chaos of a bump attack is in direct conflict with the accuracy required to properly elevate and rotate these pins into the correct position.
High security locks are built to fend off a variety of attacks.

Some high security locks also contain additional mechanisms that make bumping (and many other attacks) even harder. Sliders, check pins, special keys and keyways that “snake” into a cylinder, and even magnets are all being employed by various high security lock manufacturers. High security locks are designed to foil many surreptitious entry attempts. Since bumping takes advantage of a fundamental weakness in standard pin tumbler locks, choosing high security locks is the first step in beating the bump.

Realize that as a security professional, you have an immense amount of value to your customers because of the knowledge you possess. An opportunity to educate the public about the advantages of high security locks has been placed right on our doorsteps. The news stories are just going to keep coming, and the internet is going to continue to spread bumping knowledge. If we chose to ignore key bumping, it will not go away.

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