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  • More things to improve door security

    Original Article written by Calvin Beckford - The Crime Prevention Website


    Replacing lock cylinders – important please read


    Most of the locks on replacement doors rely on a ‘euro' profile cylinder or ‘oval’ profile cylinder to operate the locking mechanism. In recent years there has been a steady increase in the numbers of burglaries where these cylinders have been attacked to gain entry (discussed below). The police and security industry have known about these problems for several years, but because in the early days the techniques were used rarely and were confined to only a few locations around the UK, these problems were deliberately not broadcast to the public at large for fear of making the problem a lot worse.  Instead, the security industry quietly and quickly developed measures to protect the cylinders from these attacks. With the methods of attack now widely broadcast across the internet your need to upgrade your door locks and associated hardware has become a lot more important. Before we find out what you can do about it let's first look at these attacks in a little more detail; something I wouldn't have written about a couple of years ago. 


    Cylinder snapping


    The standard euro profile cylinder on your front door is essentially two cylinders together providing you with a keyway (Keyhole) on both faces of the door.  If you live in a flat then your cylinder might have a thumb turn on the inner face instead of a keyway.  In the middle of the cylinder is a cam that turns when you insert and turn the key or the thumb turn and it is this cam that operates the locking mechanism.  The cylinder barrel is cast in one piece and the metal below the cam is quite thin.  This is the weak point. Having snapped the cylinder and removed it from the door the thief can turn the cam with a screwdriver to release the locking mechanism.


    There are essentially four techniques used to snap the cylinder in half. There are no 'official' terms for these techniques, but I think my own nomenclature just about hits the spot.


    Strike and Snap  On some doors the cylinder can protrude from the surface of the door by as much as 10mm.  By sliding a claw hammer sharply down the handle's faceplate onto the top of the cylinder the cylinder will often snap off after only one strike.  This method is ably demonstrated by this You Tube video (temporarily withdrawn).


    Wiggle and Snap  Once again, if the cylinder is protruding it is possible to snap on a mole grip, wiggle the cylinder from side to side and it will eventually snap off.


    Tool and Snap  This method is really the same as Wiggle and Snap except that a special cylinder snapping tool is used.  In essence the tool is a long bar with a cut out at one end that fits tightly over the cylinder profile.  The tool is often used by locksmiths when you've lost your keys and you're going to replace the cylinder.


    Screw, Wiggle and Snap  (Sounds more like a dance!) Where the cylinder does not protrude a great deal a hardened 'concrete' screw can be turned into the cylinder to provide the necessary leverage point.


    Peel and snap  Instead of using a screw the thief peels off the door handle to reveal the now protruding cylinder.  These last three techniques are demonstrated in this You Tube video produced by Group Homesafe (Removed). Homesafe manufactures a cylinder-free multi-point lock called 'Vectis'  that uses the more traditional lever lock mechanism, which is not susceptible to these problems. 




    Lock 'bumping' involves the use of a special cut down key, which is inserted into the keyway.  Whilst applying a little turning force on the key the key is tapped on the end.  The energy travels down the key and makes the pins in the barrel jump up to the necessary positions to enable the key to turn the cam inside and unlock the door. Given a little practice the technique is quite achievable and sets of 'bump' keys are available to anyone off the internet.  


    Bumping (as a method used to commit burglary) reached our shores from Northern Europe about ten years ago where according to my contacts it has been used by thieves for several decades. Of course, our locksmiths have known about the technique probably since the invention of the profile cylinder, because that's what locksmiths do; they try and overcome security devices so that they can open your door when you get locked out. The various locksmith associations around the world even have competitions to see who can 'bump' a lock the quickest!


    Bumping dilemmas


    Because bumping a cylinder leaves little or no evidence that the technique has actually been used to gain entry we are faced with two rather major dilemmas. The first one is concerned with how the crime is recorded by the police.  As a victim you could be telling the police that you definitely closed and locked all the doors and windows when you left the house, but the police officers will be scratching their heads thinking how then did the thief get in? With no obvious evidence to identify the point of entry who could blame them if they didn't believe you and surmised that the house was left insecure. In the end the crime report would probably record the point and method of entry as 'unknown', but this won't help you when it comes to making an insurance claim, which is the second dilemma.


    The insurers will want to be convinced that you had secured all the doors and windows, as this is normally a condition of your cover, so how are you going to convince the insurers that the thief used a bump key? I have no doubt that insurers have come across this problem many times and have settled claims, but this dilemma is food for thought.  If this has happened to you please let us us know by clicking Feedback on this page at the top left of this page.


    The extent of the problem


    An added problem with bumping is that it has been difficult for the police to know how widespread the problem has become.  The limited analysis that has been conducted suggests that bumping is more common in newer housing developments where all the doors use a similar cylinder, which can be overcome using the same bump key.  Bumping appears to have been geographically concentrated suggesting limited learning exchange between thieves.  That being said it is clear that the police have considered bumping to be a growing problem, because they have worked closely with the industry and standards bodies encouraging the development of new standards for cylinders and attack resistant door hardware.


    Solutions for Cylinder Snapping and Bumping


    The Door and Hardware Federation and the Glass and Glazing Federation have produced a very useful guide for security and building professionals, installers and locksmiths entitled Meeting the new TS 007 security standard for replacement lock cylinders and protective door furniture.  In essence, the guide demonstrates how these persons can upgrade the security of a doorset by installing a fully resistant (Three Star) Kitemarked lock cylinder or combining a One Star cylinder with Two Star security hardware.


    The full Technical Specification 007 Enhanced security performance requirements for replacement cylinders and/or associated security hardware can be viewed here.


    So, you can replace the existing euro-profile and oval cylinders in your doors with BSI Kitemarked cylinders that are resistant to bumping and snapping together with the door handle or other protective hardware.  Although you can do this work yourself you should employ a member of the Master Locksmiths Association if you are in any doubt.


    If you have enhanced security doors that are certificated to the most recent version of PAS 24, i.e. PAS 24: 2007 +A2: 2011 or the forthcoming PAS 24 2012 then the locking systems and door hardware will already be resistant to attacks on the cylinder and bumping. Look for the kitemark stamped on the face of the cylinder or on the key.


    If your enhanced security doorset was certificated to an older version of PAS 24 then you should check the security of the locking mechanism, the cylinder and the hardware with the door supplier/manufacturer or a member of the Master Locksmiths Association.  This is because the security of PAS 24 doorsets has improved a great deal since the first ones were manufactured in 1999.  For example, bump and snap resistant cylinders did not become a requirement of PAS 24 until 30th November 2008. A Master Locksmith will be able to check the components used in the door and possibly upgrade them.  That being said the best advice will always be to upgrade the entire doorset, because although upgrading the cylinder and door handle might well improve the security of those elements, the overall security of the door assembly is the function of all the individual components working together. (At the time of writing (April 2012) a new PAS 24 composite doorset was £750)  


    Be aware that you may invalidate the warranty on your doorset if you carry out work on it without first seeking agreement from the people who have issued the warranty.   


    Improving the security of old aluminium sliding doors (Patio Doors)


    Many thousands of these have been installed into people’s homes and some of the older ones have quite poor security.  In fact it’s not unusual to find catches made from plastic!  Some of them can also be lifted off their tracks using the garden spade and back in the 70s and 80s this type of forced entry was very common.  Nowadays you can buy sliding doors that have been certificated to PAS 24 and so please make sure that if you are going to replace them you buy ones to that standard. (See  Enhanced security doorsets   )


    For existing doors there are two things you can do immediately to improve the security.  The first thing is to make sure they cannot be lifted off their tracks.  You can stop this from happening by opening the sliding door and fitting a timber batten into the top frame to further limit the distance by which the door can be lifted. 


    The locking can be improved by fitting a pair of patio door locks.  One can be fitted either into the bottom frame immediately next to the fixed door or onto the stile of the fixed door.  A second patio door lock can be fitted in the same locations but at the top of the fixed door.  Although these locks will prevent sliding and lifting I would still use the batten to prevent lifting just in case.  The locks are fitted into these positions because if force is applied then the locks are forced into the fixed door.  If they were fitted onto the other side the forces applied could pull them out.  You will almost certainly have to use self tapping screws to fix these devices (follow the instructions on the packet very carefully) and make sure you don’t accidently hit the glass or you’ll have a big bill to pay. 


    Upgrading the fitted locks


    Most insurers specify 5 lever or BS 3621 (BS 8621 or BS 10621) mortice and or rim nightlatches on your doors, unless they have multipoint locking or are PAS 24 enhanced security doorsets.  So what do you do if you want to keep the old door and upgrade the locks?  Unless you know exactly what you are doing then I would again strongly advise you to get the locksmith around.  Some aluminium front doors from the 1970s require rather slim fitting mortice locks, which may not be available from the DIY store and upgrading old U-PVC doors requires a great of skill and knowhow. 


    Other lock configurations

    It is of course possible to fit additional locks or use different lock configurations on exisiting and new timber doors to gain some additional security.  Take my sister-in-law's old flat door, which was solid core, but only had a roller bolt latch in the centre. My mate, a master locksmith, fitted a pair of BS 8621 mortice locks.  The bottom one had the keyhole about 500mm up from the bottom of the door and the other one had the keyhole about 400mm from the top of the door.  He fitted a pair of hinge bolts and finished the improvements off with both London and Birmingham frame reinforcement bars and a grille on the inside of the small glazed panel. (The locks had thumturns on the inside for emergency escape.)  I appreciate that this arrangement was not technically in line with the building regulations at the time, but she did own the flat and the security arrangements meant she could relax in the certain knowledge that forced entry was highly unlikely.

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