The First Modern Lock Took Over Six Decades To Pick

//The First Modern Lock Took Over Six Decades To Pick

The First Modern Lock Took Over Six Decades To Pick

Ever since people have had items and people they have wanted to keep safe and secure, there have been security system solutions to help them do this.

Exactly who invented the lock is still debated, with early rudimentary locks being found in ancient Assyria, with other innovations being developed in Ancient Rome and Anglo-Saxon England.

However, the first modern lock designed with high security in mind was patented in 1784 by the inventor Joseph Bramah, who would also invent the concept of machine tools and the hydraulic press among many other innovations.

The lock, whilst differing in several ways by a cylindrical key and wafers rather than pins, resembles a modern pin-tumbler lock or Ace Lock and quickly became famous for how difficult they were to break into.

This reputation increased to the point that Mr Bramah’s London locksmith had a challenge lock proudly displayed in the window, promising the person who can “create an instrument” that can pick the lock 200 guineas (worth around £35,000 in 2022).

Featuring 18 different wafers and 470m potential combinations, it was for decades considered to be unpickable, although apparently a member of staff at Bramah Locks had managed to do so in the 1820s.

By this point, with Bramah’s lock only picked by a person who never publicised it and never proved it, as well as the development of the Chubb detector lock that had a similar impregnable reputation, high society put a great level of trust in the hands of these locks, believing that they needed no better security than this.

This would change in dramatic fashion in 1851, leading to a public fiasco known as The Great Lock Controversy in the popular press.

Arthur Charles Hobbs was an American inventor who had travelled to London to exhibit the Parautoptic lock developed by his boss Robert Newell, which had been claimed to be better than the current Chubb and Bramah locks that had dominated the British marketplace.

Thinking of a way to market this new invention, Mr Hobbs opted to go on the offensive, declaring that he could pick the most popular lock in England.

Quite a few onlookers scoffed, but when Mr Hobbs went on to pick the lock in just over 20 minutes, the mocking stopped. The locks used by the Bank of England had been picked in mere minutes with a few small tools.

Mr Hobbs then announced that he would take up the Bramah lock challenge as well, which became a much-publicised and controversial event.

However, after a total of 51 hours of work over the course of 16 days, Mr Hobbs had successfully picked a lock that was thought to be effectively invincible.

Controversy immediately sparked alongside a dawning panic. Initially, there were claims that he had somehow cheated, but when people did not necessarily agree, the controversy turned to whether he was right to even show it could be picked to begin with, especially since the attempt was effectively a publicity stunt.

In response, Mr Hobbs published a paper discussing the controversy and the question, ending with the point that “rogues” know a lot more about finding the weaknesses of locks than can be taught by locksmiths, and that the challenge aimed to understand the weaknesses and develop more robust locks.

This concept, now known in digital security circles as “white hat security”, is commonplace, and the approach to security is to use a range of different security and surveillance techniques to delay a potential forced entry attempt long enough for security or law enforcement to arrive.

By |2022-09-26T12:55:08+01:00August 31st, 2022|Blog|0 Comments

About the Author:

Leave A Comment