Nightlatches And Deadlocks – The Test of Time

Mick friend is joined by a couple of contributors to look backwards and forwards at the past, present and future of trying to defeat the burglar – and making a living as a locksmith.

When I were a lad, writes Mick Friend, it was simple. Nightlatch cylinders and Union Oval profile cylinders. The Nightlatch cylinders came in differing flavours with the Ingersol SC1 being the most chunky. It had secure keys that required the consumer to buy, by post, with his registration, a duplicate which was sent by recorded delivery. You could get brass or nickel.

Then Johnny Foreigner introduces those infernal ‘plastic’ doors. It would never catch on we all thought. The British Nightlatch and Deadlock combination would rule for years and years.

Well that all went wrong.

But did we have 3 cylinders now?
Oh No! we had our base two PLUS dozens of differing size Euro’s some had thumb turns on one side, which many of us thought stupid with a letterplate. From even size 25mm to odd legs 25-60mm you had to keep half a tonne in you toolbox.

I remember Nigel Rose walking into my shop with a huge smile on his face. ‘Cracked the cylinder problem’ he said as he laid the lovely blue canvas cylinder roll on the counter. ‘All the sizes you will ever need’. If only!

More but no merrier
One of the problems with internet giving away methods to destroy the lock is that manufacturers have been inspired to create an abundance of ‘secure’ cylinders. But each time I think the manufacturers have defeated the Locksmith et al the Bungler someone comes up with a tool to bypass the security features. Now that would be OK if they were restricted to the Trade and Bona Fide trades people. But greed kicks in and within a month cheap copies arrive from China and are on general sale, even Amazon cashes in.

So we march onwards and upwards
Now we have cylinders that open by magic, a code is sent via a mobile app and the door unlocks, the lights turn on, the kettle comes to the boil, the central heating clicks up two degrees. Iloq now have one that batteries are no longer needed as it takes it’s power from the mobile phone that has NFC induction.

And on top of all this cars with no keys. Soon a genius will marry it all together Car, House, Alarm, Safe and bank machines. It will then be a simple matter for some low-life to take everything you have. ‘It cannot happen’ I am told. I do not believe that, if they can hack the Pentagon, NASA, the CIA and huge numbers of big business computers, with all their safeguards and firewalls how will the humble lock stand a defiant attack?

I remember the RFID card was ‘secure’ but now they scan your pocket and grab all your card info.

ABUS Euro Cylinder Viewpoint by Nick Vanderhoest – ABUS UK
The UK market for euro cylindershas exploded in the last five years with virtually all new doors now being fitted with a euro cylinders at hip level to operate either a single mortice lock, or a series of locking bars. This system changes the previous UK domestic door reliance on either a shoulder placed rim lock, and or a hip level lever lock.

This change should put UK domestic doors on a similar footing to Europe where euro cylinders have been the standard domestic and commercial locking point for generations.

Sadly it does not. In Europe and in particular Germany, ABUS' home market, lock suppliers each provide different key profiles designed to offer variable levels of manipulation protection. ABUS market dozens of different euro profile key sections. This negates any thief trying to 'bump' locks. The thief would need a keyring with at least a dozen bump keys for just ABUS locks alone.

The UK euro cylinder market has sadly gone for convenience over security. All euro cylinders aimed at the UK domestic market are supplied on a standard 1A keyway common to the traditional rim locks.

Bingo for the thief who needs just one 1A bump key to gain access to 99% of UK domestic doors.

Bingo too if the 1A cylinder has anti-bump protection. The chances are it was supplied too long, sticks out and can easily be snapped.

And Richard Hawkins of SKS adds
The European market for eurocylinders has long recognised that the cylinder should be the brain, and a brain supplied at the right size. In addition the brain should then be protected by interior fitted secure door handles or escutcheons that prevent any snapping.

The UK market’s move to euro cylinders fitting badly, with no solid external protection all on a 1A keyway has left thieves and now BSI with all the advantage. ABUS now focuses their attention on the commercial cylinder market where the demand is for bespoke MK systems with long lasting patents supplied to specific door size, protected by appropriate door furniture.

15 years ago it was typical to have a standard 5-pin cylinder fitted to a property. Anti-pick was the main security feature which people happily accepted. However with the emergence of social media such as YouTube highlighting vulnerabilities in the standard euro cylinder, designs quickly changed.

The 5-pin initially evolved into 6-pin to provide better protection against picking and to increase the number of key differs. The uptake was very slow with many people still happy with the traditional 5-pin; however over time it became classed as a basic cylinder to current standards.

About 10 years ago television documentaries and word of mouth in the market highlighted the ‘snapping’ weakness in euro cylinders. The response to resolving this was slow from manufacturers. Squire were one of the first with a ‘Snap-safe’ cut that allowed the cylinder to break in a different place and keep the door secure. Later designs improved the anti-snap protection with steel connector bars to reenforce the weak part of the cylinder and avoid it easily snapping in the first place. Once again the uptake was slow, but with many manufacturers now offering this form of protection, it wasn’t long until this type of cylinder was being classed as the new basic cylinder.

This snapping issue highlighted the importance of fitting the correct length cylinder to leave the minimum amount protruding from the door. We believe that this increased the demand for the locksmith to stock many more sizes to ensure they get the correct fit.

YouTube successfully showed members of the public how easy it was to snap cylinders as well as a new form of opening called ‘Bumping’. Due to the high impact this had, solutions were quickly brought to the market. At first the solution was to apply a thick sticky lubricant to the lock which delayed the movement of the pins; however the lubricant didn’t stay in for long so it wasn’t a complete solution. Various antibump solutions are now available and are being included in many mid to high range cylinders.

Up until this point lock manufacturers had only supplied basic security cylinders for end customers, and had only increased it when required to in response to market needs. The introduction of TS007:3 Star and Sold Secure Diamond standards was the first instance of the market leading the consumer. These new standards provided a very high level of security giving maximum protection. The end user is now becoming more aware of these standards with all new doors being supplied with a 3-Star solution and several insurance companies also requesting them to be fitted to existing doors.

Another trend we have noticed is the increase in the use of thumb-turn euro cylinders, which as you can guess means more sizes & variations needed by the locksmith. However there is an increasing range of solutions for dealing with the requirement of so many sizes & variations in the form of ‘Modular’ systems. This is where you have a kit of various sized components that you can fit together to make any size cylinder you need while still on the job. Systems such as Maxus Pro:Modular still offer Anti-Snap, Anti-Pick and Anti-Bump protection, so by using this type of solution you can still offer your customer the best level of security whilst keeping less stock.

Back to Mick
Thanks for that input. But has it all been worth it? Does it really work? Are crims now completely foxed by magnetic pins, side bars, anti pick notches? No! they resort to the age old magic, get you in every time key…..A Brick.

So now we really need Ts3 Glass…or of course an alarm system, But wait! An alarm depends on a response, from who? How long? And as they are set and unset by the mobile device we come around to point ‘A’ again. Hacked the lock, the Alarm, find the laptop by the GPS chip inside - Open the bedroom safe, load the nice new Volvo with the gear and unlock the ignition all with the sonic screwdriver.

Now a Doberman, can that be hacked? Mick

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.