Why Master Key Systems Prematurely Fail

It is rare when a singular event leads to the replacement of a master key system. Usually, there are many symptoms that can be detected before a master key system is fully defective.


It is rare when a singular event leads to the replacement of a master key system. Usually there are many symptoms that can be detected before a master key system is fully defective. As the person who performs service to the system, the locksmith is the first person to discover symptoms and can...


To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Locksmith Ledger. Already have an account? Login

Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.

OR

Complete the registration form.

Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Optional
Required
Required

It is rare when a singular event leads to the replacement of a master key system. Usually there are many symptoms that can be detected before a master key system is fully defective.

As the person who performs service to the system, the locksmith is the first person to discover symptoms and can predict irreparability. But when locksmiths pass this information to management, it is often ignored as the cost to replace a system is expensive and judgment calls usually side on "let's wait until we absolutely have to act."

It is important to understand what symptoms will lead to master key system failure.

What is a master key system?

A master key system is any keying arrangement having two or more levels of keying. Master key systems are a means of controlling access to places and things while having a direct influence on safety and security. Locksmiths not only understand the mechanics of a master key system, but also have a technical understanding of how master-keying works.

Company management probably does not even know the locksmith is using a formal master key system. Management is more likely to consider the locksmith as applying an arcane lock-by-lock technique to turn different keys on and off. Management usually has no idea at all how it works and strictly relies on the locksmith to make things happen, usually without giving the locksmith credit as a knowledgeable professional.

The locksmith would be better served if management had a better understanding.

There is a quick means to bring management up to speed as there are other systems that management is well aware of that exactly parallel what the locksmith does. Master key systems are very similar to computer network systems. The computer network system manages information and access to information. It affects productivity, security, and safety.

Management hires specialists to maintain the networks and manage data. Computer network systems eventually have to be replaced or upgraded. Once management understands the comparison, it will be easier to for the locksmith to communicate needs. When a computer network is "broken," management understands the need for immediate repair regardless of expense. Master key systems can "break" in similar ways.

Losing control of master keys

Compromise of master keys is the number one reason why master key systems are replaced.

The issuance of high level master keys (i.e. the keys that open everything in the system) should be strictly limited to the very few who actually need them. A person's job functions dictate the need to possess master keys. Locksmiths, emergency responders and roving guards are on the short list.

In the work environment, executives will often procure the TMK (Top Master Key) regarding its possession as an indicator of their personal status. As others attain the same "status," they demand issuance of the TMK. The proliferation of top master keys can lead to compromise simply by the number of executives possessing them.

Issuing top master keys in this manner drastically limits the ability of the locksmith to provide effective keying.

A typical scenario occurs when a new CEO wants to have areas keyed so that others who possess the TMK are locked out.

The additional provision that the CEO only carry one key to everything triggers the replacement of the master key system.

A typical six-pin system may have a TMK that can access all 64 pages of key combinations. The 64 pages may be split into four groups of 16 pages. Each of these groups has a master key that can open all 16 pages.

The more these types of high-level keys are issued, the greater the chance that a problem can occur. A typical problem is when the master key falls into the hands of the wrong person or the master key is lost. The seriousness may lead to the rekey of locks in that group of 16 pages which then affects a quarter of all key combinations in the system.

Losing control of high-level master keys can eliminate so many key combinations that the system must be replaced.

This content continues onto the next page...

We Recommend