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High-Security Locks

Manual, key-operated locks are the most common type of security device used to control access through doors. While many companies have installed sophisticated electronic access control systems, the manual lock is still used on most doors. In addition, many doors that are controlled by an electronic access control system still have a manual lock on them that allows override using a key.


Most manual locks that are in use today are using technology that was developed more than eighty years ago. While this technology has proven reliable, standard manual locks have many weaknesses.


Some of these weaknesses include:

  • Keys to standard locks can be duplicated: Most standard locks use keys that can be easily duplicated at locksmiths, hardware stores, and self-service key copying kiosks. Stamping "Do Not Duplicate" on the key offers little protection; most providers will duplicate the key despite the warning. There are now even on-line services that will produce a duplicate key if you send them a photo of the original key. Once the owner has given out a standard key, he or she can never be sure just how many copies of the key might have been made.

  • Standard locks can be "picked" open: Most standard lock cylinders can be opened using lock picks or a device known as a "pick gun". While some standard locks require a level of skill to pick, many locks can be opened easily by the novice. Inexpensive locks and locks that have been master-keyed are often easiest to pick.


  • Standard locks can be "bumped" open: This technique involve the use of a "bump key", something that can be purchased on the Internet, or made by simply taking an existing key and filing it down. The bump key can be inserted in a lock, given a few taps, and the lock will open. There are numerous videos on-line that show this technique.

  • Standard locks can be "drilled" open: Most standard lock cylinders can be easily drilled open. This has become an increased problem since the introduction of cordless drills.


To solve many of the weaknesses of standard locks, "high-security" locks have been developed. There are many different brands and styles of high-security locks, but most offer the following benefits:

  • Patented or Restricted Keys: Most high-security locks use keys that are patented or otherwise restricted. Distribution of key blanks is strictly limited, and special equipment is required to duplicate keys. Duplicate keys are generally only available through qualified locksmiths or the factory, and only upon written authorization of the facility owner or his designated representatives. Because it is extremely difficult for an unauthorized person to obtain a duplicate key, the facility owner can be fairly confident of the number of keys to his facility that are in circulation.


  • Pick Resistant: Most high-security locks use special mechanisms that make them more difficult to "pick" open.

  • Bump Resistant: Most high-security locks cannot be "bumped" open using a bump key.


  • Drill Resistant: Most high-security locks are designed to resist attacks by drilling. Protective measures can include the use of a hardened metal case, special hardened metal pins or disks placed in the path where the drill must penetrate, and special metal shields to prevent attack on the lock itself. While most high-security locks can be drilled open, this is a time consuming and difficult task.


Silva Consultants strongly recommends the use of high-security locks, particularly on the exterior doors of your facility. High-security locks are also a good choice for use on doors that lead into areas that contain sensitive information or high-value assets.


Here are a few manufacturers of high-security locks:


ASSA Lock, Inc.

ASSA is extremely popular in Europe and other parts of the world.  ASSA is starting to become a widely-used brand of high-security lock in the USA.



This venerable old-time lock manufacturer makes a high-security clock cylinder called the Pyramid.



Schlage Locks is a well-known manufacturer of residential and commercial lock hardware. Schlage's high-security lock is called the "Primus". The Primus system works primarily with locks manufactured by Schlage. Versions of the Primus key can operate both the Primus lock and Schlage's standard locks, making them ideal for use at facilities that already have a Schlage lock system in place.



Arguably the most popular brand of high-security lock used in the USA. Largest selection of high-security locks, lock cylinders, cam locks, and padlocks. Medeco lock cylinders can be installed in most existing locksets without requiring replacement of the lock itself.



Interesting product, relatively new in the United States. Now a division of Assa-Abloy.


It should be noted that high-security lock cylinders are not “unpickable”. There are a number of highly-skilled individuals in the country who can defeat them using specialized knowledge and the right tools. However, overcoming these locks usually requires capabilities that go far beyond those possessed by the average street criminal.

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Published May, 2016

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