With just a little bit of lock pick practice, you could be picking some of the toughest locks in no time at all! As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect. Picking a lock doesn't mean that you are doing something wrong! You may get locked out of your own house and need a way to get back in; If a neighbor, family member or friend gets locked out of their house or room, you can be there to help them. When conducting a penetration test or social engineering engagement with permission to subvert or bypass physical security constraints, lock picking may be the key to gaining access to areas otherwise outside of your purview.
Lock picking is also a great and highly rewarding hobby, and conferences all over the world are helping to highlight the growing popularity of locksport. Knowing how to pick a lock can also help you to land a job in the locksmith field. Before you decide to pay a locksmith to help you get back into your home or other area that you are locked out of, try these helpful steps in lock pick practice. We'll even show you how to pick a lock with a bobby pin!
What are Pin-and-Tumbler Locks?
Many of the average locks that you will find around the house are known as pin-and-tumbler locks. Pin-and-tumbler locks (also referred to as pin tumbler locks) can be found in deadbolts, knobs and levers, padlocks, post office mailboxes, mailbox rental locations and even some cars. These are some of the easiest types of locks to pick and are ideal to practice on when new to the trade. Picking these locks can usually be accomplished with a set of picks and a tension wrench. If you do not have these items on hand, common household items can replace the pick and tension wrench in a pinch. Before you begin lock pick practice, it is important to understand how the pin-and-tumbler lock works. Within the housing of this lock there is a cylinder that is kept in place by a few pins. When the lock is in a locked position, the top pins are pushed into the cylinder and the housing, preventing the core from turning. When the key is placed into the lock, the pins are pushed back up, allowing the core to be turned and the lock to be opened. For a more detailed explanation of these mechanics, see our post "How does a bump key work?" and watch this short video demonstrating pin tumbler mechanics:
Items Needed For Lock Picking
When practicing lock picking, it is ideal to purchase a pick and tension wrench. In situations where you are locked out, these items may not be available. In this case, household items such as a bobby pin can be used. In order to prevent damaging locks that are in use, we also suggest investing in one or more practice locks, like our clear practice locks which allow you to see what's happening while you're attempting to manipulate the pins!
Practicing Lock Picking
Now that you have the tools required, it's time to practice. On a locked door or practice lock, place your tension wrench into the lower part of the keyhole. Determine which way the tool will need to be turned in order to unlock the door. Apply light pressure in the correct direction and hold the wrench in place. Insert the pick into the upper part of the keyhole. Push the pins up to unlock the door, working from the back of the lock forward. While this may prove difficult at first try, practicing will help improve your lock picking skills.
Learn More About Lockpicking from the Locksport Pros
We learned to pick locks from Deviant Ollam, and you can too!
Deviant is a member of the Board of Directors of the US division of TOOOL, The Open Organisation Of Lockpickers. Every year at DEFCON and ShmooCon Deviant runs the Lockpick Village (which we strongly encourage you to visit!) and the Gringo Warrior games, and he has conducted physical security training sessions at Black Hat, DeepSec, ToorCon, HackCon, ShakaCon, and HackInTheBox, to name but a few.
We've also recently become quite impressed with Schuyler Towne. Schuyler started as a competitive lock picker at the Hackers On Planet Earth conference in 2006. Schuyler also served on the board for the US division of TOOOL, and has also produced some excellent training materials, including a complete 24-part series on the basic operation and manipulation of locks: