Why Use High Security Locks?

Jan. 2, 2019
Unauthorized key duplication remains a serious threat to security today and is currently the single most violated security policy in business

With all the new security products coming to market, it is challenging for locksmiths and end users to select which products to use. This is particularly true for high security locks, especially when the market seems at times to be dominated by electronics.

Hard core security pros still will stick with locks and keys for many situations where the application is appropriate.

Cameras and electronic locks surveilling and securing glass and cardboard doors don’t keep the bad guys out.. Mechanical keys and locks with patented keyways installed on substantial doors are essential.

Burglary and pick resistant locks and non-duplicable keys are the failsafe means for securing strategic assets vulnerable to physical attack and to legally override an electronic access control system when the electronics fail to operate.


Two standards are primarily associated with the term High Security locks, while the emergence of electronic locks has prompted the industry to create additional standards for them also.

UL 437 is a security rating from Underwriters Laboratories that provides a benchmark for the security of a keyed lock. Included are door locks, locking cylinders, security container key locks, and two-key locks. Though many manufacturers reference it as such, UL 437 does not define the standards for a "high security lock" in the United States.

The ANSI/BHMA A156.30-2014 American National Standard For High Security Cylinders includes security performance based requirements for both mechanical and electrified high security cylinders. For the purpose of this Standard, High Security Cylinder includes mechanical lock cylinders, electromechanical cylinders, and the electronic lock sub-assemblies that are analogous to the cylinder assemblies.

Cylinders include their keys or electronic credentials; their detainers (mechanical pins, levers, discs) or electronic control device; and their cylinder tailpiece or cam or electronic output port.

Levels: Manufacturers shall indicate the high security level of their cylinders. Cylinders shall meet all the tests for their level listing.

Grades: To obtain cylinder Grade listings, and for the mating lock to retain its Grade listing, cylinders must be tested in accordance with ANSI/BHMA A156.5 for Auxiliary Locks and Associated Products. Assemblies take the grade of the lowest graded component. Electrified products shall also meet the requirements of A156.25 for Electrified Locking Devices to obtain a grade listing. A lockset mated with a cylinder having no Grade listing, even though the cylinder has a high security level, is considered ungraded.

Restricted Keyways

The last piece of the high security key matrix is key control, which prevents or limits the ability to duplicate or create unauthorized keys. These are referred to as patented keyways, and are legally superior to keys merely stamped as “Do Not Duplicate.” The truth is there’s no law regarding “do not duplicate” keys. The engraved message found on many business keys is not legally binding – it’s just a recommendation.

According to the Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA), having a “do not duplicate” message inscribed on your company keys may actually provide a false sense of security. “Orders for keys stamped ‘Do Not Duplicate’ or similar wording will be handled in the same manner as any unrestricted key. ALOA members should inform the consumer that the use of keys stamped ‘Do Not Duplicate’ or similar wording, is not effective security, and further that the use of such words is deceptive because it provides a false sense of security. Consumers who desire effective security should purchase a patented key control system rather than rely on a ‘Do Not Duplicate’ marking. This does not apply to keys protected by law.”

Restricted keys are covered by U.S. patent laws which protect manufacturers of specialized lock and key systems. There can be a penalty of up to $10,000 imparted for circumventing the law, including the illegal duplication of restricted keys.

Medeco, a pioneer in patented keyways and high security cylinders puts it this way: “A patented keyway offers protection against unauthorized key duplication. A manufacturer with a UTILITY patent key system design controls the manufacturing and distribution of the cylinders and key (key blanks). To the customer, this means that keys and key blanks are not readily available in the open market. Only authorized individuals, whose signatures are on file with the factory, can order key blanks, cut keys, and add combinated cylinders for a key system.”

Language to use in key system specification: The manufacturer will provide a highly restricted, utility patented keyway that will be assigned to the end user.

Following are a representative group of products which their manufacturers consider as High Security, and some reasons they chose to offer you for using and selling their products.

If I am discussing high security locks with a client, we are already way beyond the conversation about whether burglary resistant locks and non-duplicable keys are required. These clients have found this out the hard way, or are compelling by a bid or code requirement to outfit their premises with locks and keys identified as High Security.

At this point we are trying to convince the customer which product is best suited for their application. We are providing assurance that their facilities are protected.

Many security professionals and observers will argue that there are no pick proof cylinders, or attack proof security barriers. Security measures are deterrents to first discourage attacks, and secondly are “Time Machines” which delay the entry and allow time for responders to intervene.

That is why security management techniques have evolved to the multi-layered and multi-technology approach to security system design.

Schlage® ND and L Series locks

By selecting a complete locking platform like the Schlage® L or ND Series that includes mechanical, electrified and electronic options, locksmiths can provide optimized security solutions for each opening of a building. Solutions can even evolve it as security needs change without compromising the aesthetic of the building.

The ND Series is ANSI/BHMA Grade 1 certified and performs beyond the Grade 1 standards. The lock withstands 3,100 in-lb. of abusive lever torque, as well as 1,600 lbs. of offset lever pull for protection against pry bar attacks. The lock is not only strong from attacks, but it also shows nearly zero droop or wobble after 16 million cycles.

The Schlage L Series offers tremendous flexibility to allow it to meet the needs of most every application.

  • Over 50 functions, 33 lever and knob designs, 5 different roses and escutcheons, and a multitude of prep options are just the beginning.
  • Exceeds ANSI/BHMA Grade 1 standards
  • Deadbolt functions include anti-saw pin in bolt to prevent cut-through
  • Security blocking hub prevents lock picking by removing levers
  • Universal lock case allows 10 functions to be created from a single lock body
  • Exclusive 180° visibility indicator available
  • Vandlgard® free-wheeling outside trim option is available on most functions
  • Expansive options portfolio, including different door thickness, finish/trim combinations, tactile warning, ligature resistance, anti-microbial coatings, etc.

Peaks Preferred

Ilco’s Peaks® Preferred key control system is the foundation for any secure access control system with strong utility patents on the key and cylinder as well as contractual agreements for the controlled issue of key blanks, unauthorized manufacture and duplication of keys is prohibited. In addition, Peaks® is an easy system to implement as the cylinders retrofit to all major brands of hardware.

Peaks® lets you convert your entire property, or just certain doors, to a restricted key system with unique security features. With Peaks®, you retain your commercial lock hardware including mortise and doorknob locks, aluminum and glass door locks, and main entrance locks, while improving security.

Michael Phillips CRL Product Manager Cylinders, Storefront, and Replacement Hardware Region North America offered some reasons for using Peaks® high security

  • Patented Key Control
  • Patented design prevents unauthorized key duplication
  • Available in mortise, rim, key-in-lever/knob, interchangeable and removable cores Retrofits most major brands of Grade 1 & 2 hardware
  • Prevention of surreptitious theft
  • Prevent bumping
  • Remove likelihood that someone may have a key that would incidentally open an unauthorized door

Ilco has reintroduced its Peaks® Preferred Patented Key Control System. The New Dealer Promotion is a great way to join the Peaks Preferred family of authorized dealers. Sign up by March 4, 2019 to take advantage of the “New Dealer” offer.

MARKS USA Hi Security

Cylinder systems in the high security class normally have more than one mechanical feature used to prevent the plug from rotating. Locks cylinders from Marks USA are called Hi-Security cylinders.

Hi-Security cylinders use pin tumbler construction. Depth and spacing is equal to normal .015 depth increments with 10 depths numbering 0-9. Hold and vary two-step rotation can be used to develop master key system according to industry standards.

Second, a 'security wave' is laser cut into the side of each hi-security key blank . The security wave moves flat, spring-free wafer type tumblers which are located between each pin tumbler. Each wafer tumbler contains a notch at different height locations. In order to operate a hi-security cylinder, the proper key must raise all pin tumblers to the shearline while aligning the wafer notches allowing the sidebar to move inward. Only then can the lock plug be turned.

Security waves form a 'security code' precut at the factory. Multiple Security codes and keyways are available. Assignment is controlled by geographic location or customer category type.

Hi-Security cylinders by Marks USA are available to retrofit most popular cylinder configurations including combination rim/mortise cylinders, key-in-knob cylinders and SFIC cylinders. SFIC cylinders are available to fit in 6 or 7 pin housings. An additional LFIC hi-securty cylinder is available to retrofit Medeco housings.

Standard and large format hi-security cylinders can be ordered with a UL437 option for greater drill resistance. SFIC hi-security cylinders cannot be ordered with the UL437 option at this time.

A new addition is an economical Security-Mate cylinder which does not include a secondary sidebar feature. This allows dealers to install more secure hi-security lock cylinders on exterior doors and Security Mate cylinders on interior doors.

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. In addition, patents provide legal protection for patent infringement against those who attempt to produce or manufacture key blanks or cylinders.

Abloy Protec2

ABLOY PROTEC2 is the latest milestone in the development of the unique ABLOY rotating disc cylinder keying systems. Rotating disks are also used in safes.

In an ABLOY PROTEC2 locking system, different products can be keyed into the same master key system and thus all products can be operated with just a single key. This simplifies your locking system and key management. There are 1.97 billion different key combinations providing the possibility to create extensive master key systems that fulfil your exact specifications.

The unique and patented rotating disc technology provides smooth and reliable functionality also in extreme environments. New patented features in keys and cylinders have worldwide patents which are valid until 2031.

The cylinder is virtually pick proof, bump proof and cannot be impressioned. It resists physical attack, and provides maximum protection against unauthorized key duplication and harsh environmental conditions.


Medeco designed its high security product line with pick and drill resistance features that block the things thieves do to gain entry. Medeco's patented key control systems make it virtually impossible for someone to get a copy of your keys without your permission. This cost-effective solution protects against a potential liability for your facility.

Medeco has pioneered extremely large Master Key systems through their exclusive use of angled cuts on their keys, and slider combination. With millions of combinations, Medeco can accommodate even the largest installations.

The Medeco® Maxum deadbolt uses hardened steel inserts and rotating pins to provide drill and pick resistance in accordance with UL437 standard for safety for key locks. The Medeco3 design offers a utility patent that provides protection against unauthorized key duplication.

The Maxum deadbolt can be ordered with a variety of different cylinder technologies.

Mechanical Cylinder Features:

  • UL437 Listed                                  
  • BHMA A156.36Grade 1 Certification                         
  • BHMA A156.30 Level A Certification the cylinder                          
  • Can be incorporated into existing master key system        
  • Protect against drill, wrenching, bumping and prying attacks                 
  • Solid Brass Construction
  • Accommodates both mortise and drive-in face applications                   
  • Large thumbturn for ease of use
  • Key may be retrofitted with a prox head
  • Double cylinder captive thumbturn available

Electronic Cylinder Features:

  • Audit of the cylinder        
  • Audit of the key     
  • Can be incorporated into Medeco® Mechanical system               
  • Provides Scheduling         
  • No wiring involved           
  • Multiple user access groups


Mul-T-Lock’s technological innovations that work to create both unique and some of the highest performing solutions.

MT5®+ - Top-tier, triple locking mechanism high security. Provides enhanced key control by utilizing patented keys and requiring presentation of a magnetic strip key order card for key duplication by a unique card swipe key cutting machine. Also offers enhanced resistance to picking, drilling, bumping and other forms of lock manipulation.

Interactive®+ - Reliable, double locking mechanism high security. Provides enhanced key control by utilizing patented keys and requiring presentation of a key order card to an authorized dealer for key duplication by a unique locksmith-operated key cutting machine. Also offers enhanced resistance to picking, drilling, bumping and other forms of lock manipulation. The Interactive®+ platform is also available with CLIQ® electromechanical technology. Choose this solution for applications that require physical security and protection against unauthorized key duplication.

Note that the Interactive®+ patented platform is the newest evolution of the Interactive® platform and is backwards compatible with this platform (Interactive®+ keys will operate both Interactive®+ and Interactive® lock cylinders.)

ClassicPro™ - An advanced locking system with the security features of a commercial product with an affordable price tag. Mul-T-Lock combines its advanced telescopic pining technology with a special patented cut to meet higher security standards for commercial properties and private homes. ClassicPro offers higher resistance to break-ins, intrusions by bumping, drilling and picking.

Integrator® - Patented key, standard security platform. Provides enhanced key control by utilizing patented keys and requiring presentation of a key order card to an authorized dealer for key duplication by a unique locksmith-operated key cutting machine but does not offer physical high security.

The Integrator® platform can be used in a combined system with the non-patented 7x7® system in order to create a two-tier security system which utilizes patented cylinders and keys in some areas and non-patented components in others, all operable by Integrator® keys. Choose this solution for applications that require protection against unauthorized key duplication in all or some areas and do not require strong physical high security.