It began when I uttered some strong, slightly derogative statements about the security of a system in the vicinity of one of it’s architects. In stead of starting an argument – an argument he would no doubt have won easily and convincingly – the next day he brought me a copy of MIT Guide to Lock Picking with the words “I think you will like this”.
So I started reading. The guide takes an analytical, hackerish approach to lock picking, that’s amusing and thorough at the same time. The inner working of commonly used locks is laid bare, and ways to beat their security are described. It turns out that, with some skill, many locks are pick-able, and many of these easily so.
Later on I came across a post on Schneier on Security with an even more shocking conclusion: a certain brand of combination lock was crackable within ten minutes. It is in these kind of locks we put our trust for securing our jewelry, family albums, passports and other valuables…
It put some perspective to the security measures of relatively new IT systems, that often are a lot better designed and some measures harder to crack.
The specimen of a real life lock lock in this picture admittedly wasn’t even state of the art in the age it was first installed. Picking it will be fairly easy, although other attack vectors might be more efficient (just have a look at the photo. Hint: pincers). But that is not the reason my eye fell on this lock. It’s not the fact the shed it locks is currently angled at about 60 degrees either. It’s the beauty of the thing. It’s the decayed look created by years of abuse by rain and wind. The subtle colors, brought to life by a brightly shining sun.