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Bump-proof your community.

Apartment communities that use one lock format and re-key apartment homes following each moveout might be inviting burglars who go bump in the night.

Lock bumping, a decades-old technique that has gained recent notoriety in the media, uses a specially cut key and a tool to apply a burst of force, causing the pins inside the lock cylinder to separate across the shear line just long enough to allow the cylinder to turn.

Bumping is a technique that requires no special skill; a thief can learn and use the technique in mere moments. The technique is problematic not just for its ease, but also because it leaves virtually no trace of its use.

According to available resources, the locks most susceptible to this technique are five- and six-pin conventional cylinders or simple dimple locks.

How to Avoid the Threat

Availability of keys plays a critical role in whether bumping can be successful. The key and lock must be of the same manufacturer with the same lock and channel. Furthermore, the key must be the same length to correctly fit the five-or six-pin tumbler that the individual is attempting to open.

An apartment community using one lock format and re-keying units at each move out could be at greater risk for bumping because of the number of keys fitting the channel that are circulating in the public. If the apartment community exercises good key control, does not allow duplicates and collects and destroys keys upon move-out, that risk diminishes.

Several locks offer increased protection against bumping. There are non-consumer-grade cylinders available that are rated as high-security and carry a UL437 rating. Additionally, locks employing a secondary system complicate an individual's ability to bump open a lock. Secondary systems could include sidebars, sliders, pin rotation, moving pieces, ball bearings or other interactive elements.

Residents at Risk?

There are many variables that determine if a burglar can open a lock by bumping and if a property is at risk of being targeted; the level of risk to the apartment industry through bumping remains unknown. While the issue has received increased media attention in the United States, no documented uses of bump keys to commit crimes exist.

Apartment firms are encouraged to evaluate their lock systems, key control policies and security requirements to determine their level of risk and what, if any, protective steps they should take.

In addition to evaluating the physical property, apartment firms should also examine their insurance policies. Because bumping typically leaves no proof of entry, it is possible that an insurance company could refuse to cover a claim for property loss. Insurance companies often exclude claims of "mysterious disappearance." Apartment firms should examine policies for this exclusion, as well as discuss any other limits in coverage.

Bump Keys: Did You Know?

Lock bumping has been a known technique in the locksmith community since the 1920s. Looksmitns were known to use the technique to open pin-tumbler locks that had malfunctioned or when keys were lost.

The issue gamed notoriety in 2004 after members of The Open Organization of Lock pickers (Toool) in the Netherlands issuea a white paper detailing the technique. It garnered more attention when the Sportsfeunde der Sperrtechnik (Ssdev) in Germany also conducted research that outlined issues related to bumping and the potential security threat. From there, news outlets around the world--via the Internet, print and broadcast media--have spread the word about this security threat.

Information and Resources

* Investigative Law Offices:

* Associated Locksmiths of America:

* The Open Organization of Lockpickers (Toool):

* Bump Key HOW TO Video:

* NAA Legislative Tracking System: Please contact your state liaison or for a report.

National Supplier's Council (NSC): for service partners who provide lock and security services, please see page 113.

Rachel Arnold is NAA's Director of Public Affairs. She can be reached at or 710/518-6141 Ext. 119.
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Author:Arnold, Rachel
Date:May 1, 2007
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