I recently ran across this door and lockset in the industrial district of a major US city. Seeing an old, ramshackle (or abandoned) commercial building with a padlock hasp on the door is not all that uncommon. However, I was close enough to notice something interesting. Look at the photo. This door presents an excellent example of physical insecurity – but why?
In case you have trouble seeing the mortise cylinder, below is a close-up shot. It’s a Medeco mortise cylinder. Though the keyway is badly worn, it is a Medeco Original (first generation). This is a beautiful old lock. It has probably served this building for twenty-five years or more.
So, what is wrong with this picture, and why is it so interesting to me? It is interesting to me because the Medeco is a UL 437-Listed high security lock. Medeco locks are extremely popular and prolific, and are even trusted by the US Government. There are problems with Medeco‘s security, but they are still a huge upgrade over standard door hardware. In spite of this, this door is protected with a $12 Master padlock. Master Locks are used by BosnianBill as bad examples for every lock-defeat technique imaginable. This padlock has four pins. It is vulnerable to picking, bumping, and padlock shims. It can be cut and pried, as can the hasp. And look at the stack of washers holding the hasp on. It’s not hard to imagine a hacksaw blade slipping into the stack and cutting the bolt. The Medeco has five rotating pins and a sidebar. It can still be picked or bumped but this requires much greater skill.
Why is this so? I imagine the Medeco key has long since been lost, but it is also possible the Medeco is broken. In this example I have no way of knowing, but it is interesting to think about. Instead of tracking down a locksmith and having the lock decoded or repaired, the owner decided to implement his own system of access control. In doing so he or she reduced decent security to gross physical insecurity.