What Does High Security Mean?

Jan. 2, 2018
From the locksmith's viewpoint, selling high security means a patented keyway, a long term relationship and the recurring revenue of a repeat customer

In 1861, Linus Yale, Jr. was inspired by the original 1840s pin-tumbler lock designed by his father, thus inventing and patenting a smaller flat key with serrated edges as well as pins of varying lengths within the lock itself, the same design of the pin-tumbler lock which still remains in use today. It is not surprising that some predict the sunset of pin tumbler technology.

In response, in 1969 the MEchanical DEvelopment COmpany (MEDECO) introduced the first High Security lock. Many other manufacturers have followed suit with re-designs and key systems to take the place of and improve upon the basic pin-tumbler.

When locksmiths use the term High Security, they are referring to locks and keys which provide the highest level of key control, and resistance to picking and attack.

When someone other than a locksmith uses the term High Security, it’s hard to predict what they are referring to, since the term high security is used in many contexts beyond locks and keys.

Since locksmiths are physical security specialists, they should be prepared to discuss and provide whatever level of physical security the client requires, and this should include high security locks and keys.

Gale Johnson, editor of Locksmith Ledger, comments that High Security keys and locks is one of the few remaining vertical markets over which locksmiths still retain domain. Even when the manufacturer supplies proprietary blanks to a client, such as a municipality, the locksmith has the opportunity to act as consultant and authorized dealer and will usually be involved in the myriad of tasks associated with installing and maintaining a population of high security cylinders and associated hardware items. Many manufacturers do not have boots on the ground.

If you sell a client a non-patented keylock, you are creating repeat business for a home center when the customer needs more keys.

If you sell a client a patented keyway, you have created a long term relationship and the recurring revenue of a repeat customer.

Which high security keys and locks are best? The answer will be individualized to your own experiences with mechanical locks and keys, the market you service, and what proportion of your locksmithing activities involve customers and projects where high security is appropriate. The client may ask for high security and then quickly do a 180 turn when you break the news to them what it will cost them.

Municipal, educational and corporate customers represent the real market for high security. They have experience with security and understand layers of security, the vulnerability of openings to attack, the shortcoming of unpatented keyways, and the real dangers poor key control present to their organizations.

Most enterprises have doors and areas which require the highest level of security they can deploy.

Some openings are difficult because of the nature of the door, its location, or the kind of use it gets.

All locks and keys should be easy and convenient to use, but also provide assurances that only authorized individuals have possession of the keys, and they have a high level of assurance there are no unauthorized keys or keyholders lurking about in the shadows.

All locks should be designed and rated to resist attack and compromise, and not be easy picking for some ex-felon who learned lockpicking in prison and now earns some money on the side freelancing.

That is why the Locksmith Ledger is always promoting a multi-faceted approach to security which involves all the best and latest technologies, including high security locks.

There are two accepted tenants in security. One is that no lock is going to be 100 percent effective in stopping a break in, the best that can be hoped for is to deter and then slow down a break in.

The other is that security is most effective when a layered approach is employed. Putting a high security lock on a door without adequately assessing the premises, and without additional complementary security measures being deployed, will probably not produce the desired effect.

Key management begins with the manufacturer’s ability to control who can obtain blank keys, but the end-user is ultimately responsible for key management.

The Locksmith Ledger talks about electronic access and standalone locks frequently, and we would once again reiterate that installing state of art electronics on a door with non-patented lock and keying is throwing your money away and placing your customers’ welfare in jeopardy.

A few situations and clients come to my mind when I think of my own experiences with high security and high security keys and locks. For a broader perspective Locksmith Ledger reached out to one of our loyal readers. Mike Radom is a highly experienced locksmith whose resume presently includes locksmithing, plus a previous extended stint as customer service/tech support rep for a distributor. Following are the Ledger’s questions and Radom’s answers.

What does High Security mean?

Forty plus years ago the security industry realized a need for controlling the duplication of keys.  Several lock companies developed patented key system which prohibited aftermarket key blank companies from manufacturing the patented key blanks. The locksmith industry coined the expression "High Security" which referred to the controlled security of key blanks, not necessarily any increased security of the installed locking systems. Selling High Security key systems became a locksmith favorite since customers had to return to a specific registered locksmith for future servicing of that High Security key system. 

Where should High Security be used?

High Security key systems can be installed wherever there is a need to control the amount of keys in use. This may include vestibule entrance doors in commercial buildings or for restricted areas such as computer rooms.  Companies offering High Security products also offer improved deadbolt versions which can be installed both at residential and commercial sites offering a combination of key control and added protection against forced entry.  

I received an email advertisement last week promoting a door closer which was suitable for high security installations. What does high security installation mean, and what are the criteria for selecting components and systems for high security?

There is a certain confusion about using the term ‘high security.’  When hardware products are normally referred to by hardware manufacturers as high security, my understanding is that the product is either of above average quality or that the locking characteristics of the hardware product improve defense against forced entry.  When high security refers to a patented key system, High Security wording is usually capitalized.   

What are the important factors to consider when specifying/selecting a product? 

High Security lock products all generally have at least two locking systems. Systems include some type of normal shearline operated by a key cut combination plus some type of secondary locking system requiring extra milling or extensions in the key blank which allow the key system to be patented.

While all lock companies began with some type of patented key system, there are several factors which influence the decision of what High Security key system to sell.  When does the patent expire?  Does the manufacturer offer a wide variety of lock cylinder applications?  Does your favorite distributor stock a full line of their products?  Does the High Security manufacturer offer training?  What is the procedure for originating keys or combinating lock cylinders?  

Given the costs in materials and investment of time to learn a product, does it make sense to be certified on more than one?

This is a decision for each individual locksmith company. Unless there is a good reason such as a patent expiration, poor delivery of product or discontinuation by your favorite distributor, stocking another High Security product line may be questionable.  High Security key systems are designed to provide key control. If your present High Security product line accomplishes that requirement, then a change may add more confusion than solutions. 

Should a product's patent expiration influence selection?

I believe patents last approximately 17 years. If a patent is near expiration, then question the manufacturer. High Security key systems have existed for decades. Every manufacturer has found ways to design new features which can extend their patent. In some cases existing key systems can be upgraded and in some case this may require new lock cylinders.  Imminent expiration of patents should not completely influence your decision but it should be a factor when choosing a High Security product to sell.  

When the patent expires, is the product dead, and end-users exposed?

Locksmiths are responsible to inform their customers about patent expiration dates.  The danger is that aftermarket key blanks may become available and control of key duplication may be lost.  This should be seen as a positive development to upgrade and improve old existing High Security key systems for your customers.  

Are hybrid High Security Mechanical/Electronic the trend of the future?

High Security key systems are the highest level of mechanical protection but there are limitations. Electronics offers important features such as remote event reporting and access privilege administration; time and attendance plus automatic lockouts for holidays and weekends. These are features the public is demanding, and which is included into the specifications for facilities which are considered high risk and require “High Security.”

Several companies are now offering mechanical key systems with additional electronic features in the keybow. There will always be a use for mechanical High Security lock systems but electronics will be gaining an increasing percentage of the High Security market.     

Schlage® Layered Key System

Using the Everest 29™ keyway families, Schlage® offers a layered approach to key system security — delivering three levels of protection. The concept combines administrative security, features that limit key duplication, with physical security, features that make the cylinder harder to pick, bump or drill. Schlage’s layered security approach offers high security where you need it, and budget-friendly solutions where you don’t.

It starts with Everest 29 keyways, patent protected against unauthorized key duplication and non-authorized manufacturing and distribution of key blanks until 2029.

Built on the original Everest key systems, Everest 29 is fully backwards compatible and features through-cut key technology that creates a unique undercut design. The cylinder includes physical security features using a check pin so that only the Everest 29 key design can enable cylinder engagement.

For next-level security, add Primus XP®. The program centers on creating geographic exclusivity on the side bit milling designs of Everest 29 keys for both locksmiths and end users. Locksmiths are offered exclusivity within a zip code or time zone with low inventory commitment. This increases administrative security for an Everest 29 keyway.

Physical security is also improved with the cylinder’s independent sidebar and finger pin locking mechanisms, making the cylinder highly pick-resistant.

Take physical security up yet another level by adding the UL 437 option on a Primus XP cylinder. Its hardened steel drill pins make the cylinder resistant to extreme attack.

Schlage Everest 29 keyways

  • Available in 6-pin conventional key-in- lever (KIL), 6-pin FSIC, and 7-pin SFIC cylinders.
  • New Everest SL cylinder is a 7-pin, full-size KIL cylinder that accepts a SFIC A2 key system. This allows multiple key systems to be unified at a much lower cost because there is no need to replace installed cylindrical lock hardware.
  • Three keyway families (R, S and T) are backwards compatible to legacy Everest (B, C and D) keyway families, making migration less complex.
  • There is no requirement for specialized or dedicated key cutting equipment.

Primus XP

  • Pick-resistant and built with the highest standards of quality. Primus XP features a higher level of physical security features in the cylinder.
  • Two independent locking mechanisms—a conventional pin and tumbler plus five finger pins and sidebar mechanism require simultaneous engagement for cylinder to operate.
  • Allows creation of geographically exclusive keys that are controlled by the locksmith or end user.
  • Locksmiths have the ability to service end user controlled key systems.
  • Can be used to upgrade an Everest 29 or Schlage Classic keyway to a high-security cylinder.
  • UL 437 option creates highest levels of physical security in the cylinder.

The redesigned Schlage ND Series incorporates new spring cages, levers and latches on mechanical and electrified locks taking strength, performance and reliability to an all-new level. ND locks significantly exceed the testing requirements for cycle, lever torque, hammer blow, lever pull and other tests to achieve BHMA Grade 1.

This means confidence that the lock will endure and function, whether the application is high security, abusive or high traffic. It’s a proven, easy-to- install product with extensive function, keyway, trim and finish options to fit in nearly any commercial building.

  • Significantly exceeds ANSI/BHMA A156.2 requirements for Grade 1 cylindrical locks.
  • Unparalleled strength: prevents access even when subjected to torque loads up to 3,100 in-lbs (2.6x BHMA requirement); withstands pry bar attacks of 1,600 lbs (8x BHMA); and endures 100 sledgehammer blows (20x BHMA).
  • 31 mechanical functions and six wired functions available.
  • Uses common, ANSI 161 cylindrical lock door prep.
  • Patented Everest 29™ S keyway comes standard—open, restricted and geographically exclusive Primus XP® optional.
  • Key-in- lever, FSIC and SFIC cylinder options with support for 10 non-Schlage cores.

dormakaba M9072 Series

dormakaba has added the M9072 Classroom Intruder with indicator function to its line of heavy-duty mortise locksets. Suitable for classrooms, the M9072 includes an inside indicator which clearly displays LOCKED or UNLOCKED. M9072 mortise locksets are certified to ANSI/BHMA A156.13 Series 1000, operational and security Grade 1, and are available in a variety of trim designs and finishes.

The dormakaba TS93 GSR closer/coordinator offers smooth, efficient door control with proper sequential closing for door pairs with astragals or exit devices. The cam & roller design maximizes ease-of- opening and maintains more energy than rack and pinion to firmly latch the door, offering the best choice for an ADA compliant door that will latch under stack pressures and other environmental conditions.



Marks USA patented HI-SECURITY™ cylinders offer a secondary mechanical locking mechanism that creates resistance to bump and picking attacks. In addition, the design supports a corresponding configuration on the key blank called a "security wave" that supports prevention of unauthorized duplication of keys. The locking principal is adaptable to standard cylinders and large and small format interchangeable cores.

MarksUSA HI-SECURITY™ keyways and security waves are of proprietary origination. The distribution of key blanks is factory controlled. Multiple keyways and security codes are available. Assignment is by geographic or customer category type.

The Marks USA HI-SECURITY™ pick and bump resistance features are designed with added security in mind for cylinders, cores and key blanks.

Designed to complement the Marks USA locksets, the HI-SECURITY™ Program allows for expansion into the growing patented high security and patented key control markets.

Cylinders currently available include mortise, rim, a combination mortise and rim, key-in-knob, deadbolt, Large format Schlage® IC Core, and Small Format IC core.

Cylinder: Lock cylinders are of a high security pick and bump resistant design with keys cut with a security wave configuration, standard pin tumblers and four or five rectangle shaped security pins with a sidebar locking mechanism.

Patented Key Control: Levels of key control are available based on specific end-user convenience and security desired.

Keying: Cylinders may be supplied “0” bitted, keyed different, keyed alike, construction master-keyed, master-keyed and grand-master-keyed consistent with Doors and Hardware Institute standards for six pin systems for standard pin tumbler cylinders and six and seven pin systems for small format interchangeable core systems

The Security-Mate™ cylinder is of standard pin tumbler security construction, intended to complement Marks HI-SECURITY™ cylinder applications. Cylinders may be integrated into a Marks HI-SECURITY™ key system.

Driven by dealer and consumer demand for a more economic cylinder solution for interior doors such as closets, where less security is needed but the convenience of carrying a single key is desired, Security-Mate™ is a natural addition to the product line.

Security-Mate™ cylinders are made of quality bar brass with precision tolerances, made in five or six pin configuration, in Mortise, Mortise-rim Combo and Key-in-Knob cylinder configurations.

Only Marks patented HI-SECURITY™ keys will operate the Security-Mate™

More Info: www.marksusa.com

Sargent XC Series

The XC Series features specially designed, patent protected keys which operate XC cylinders and conventional cylinders in one key system. XC Series cylinders can be integrated into most existing SARGENT systems or as a new system. Multiple security levels are available to provide key control, convenience and service that meet the demands of each installation.

  • Patented 6-pin or 7- pin SFIC product with key blanks only available through authorized Sargent distributors
  • Available in finished locks, complete cylinder assemblies and shell/plug components
  • Available in several standard Sargent keyways L and R families only
  • XC keys can be cut to operate non-XC cylinders. Easily field cut on standard key duplicating machines
  • XC cylinders are available with Bump Resistant Pins by specifying BR-option
  • Available for most Sargent lock products in conventional, construction and SFIC cylinders
  • Small format Interchangeable Cores in Sargent 4A and 4B
  • Captive independent locking mechanisms are controlled by the XC key

More Info: www.sargentlock.com

Medeco Commercial Security Solution

MEDECO reports that 30 percent of all burglaries are unlawful entry without force -- meaning the thief had a key to gain access. How's that possible? Because many keys can be easily duplicated at one of the more than 30,000 hardware stores and 26,000 discount stores nationwide.

Medeco's high security solution starts with key control, a process that ensures keys cannot be duplicated without proper permission. With Medeco's patented key control system, it's virtually impossible for  even a locksmith to duplicate a key without proper permission.

In addition, Medeco's high security locks are strong and built to resist physical attacks such as prying, kicking and sawing. Medeco then takes it further with a uniquely designed tumbler pin system that reduces covert compromise such as picking and bumping. 

Medeco adds another layer of security with its line of Intelligent Keys, making it easy and convenient to audit and schedule key usage. Installation is a snap. Medeco's Intelligent Keys simply retrofit existing technology without the usual hard wiring requirements.

Medeco XT Intelligent Key features:

  • Audit Accountability - Audit information recorded in both the lock and key shows a time-and-date stamped record of every event, including authorized accesses and unauthorized attempts
  • Electronic Scheduling - Intelligent Keys are programmed for specific openings with fully flexible scheduling. Access Profiles can be created where programming updates are generated automatically when an opening is added or removed.
  • Uses Existing Hardware - The Medeco XT intelligent key provides all power to the cylinder, eliminating the need for any hard wiring or power supply. Simply remove the existing mechanical cylinder and install the Medeco XT cylinder.
  • Reduces Risk of Lost Keys - Respond quickly to security threats, lost or stolen keys,or personnel changes utilizing expiring intelligent key validation intervals and remote programming.
  • Physical Security - Medeco XT products add a wide variety of intelligent features without compromising on physical security. Attack-resistant design and tamper-proof features on the Medeco XT cylinder provide strong protection against forced entry.
  • Efficient System Management - Medeco XT software contains tools that will help you manage your security more efficiently. Flexible programming, scheduled access and full audit reports are offered with the convenience of stand-alone or web-based software.
  • Data Dashboard - Glances display system data in a new graphical way on the Medeco dashboard. The ‘Glances’ display consists of several mini-dashboards that provide insight into your system configurationand audit events.
  • Bluetooth - Bluetooth enabled option with iOS and Android App support.

More Info: www.medeco.com