By: Tere Scott on May 21, 2018 at 7:30 PM
We trust the locks on our doors to keep us safe. Some of us even go so far as to upgrading those locks to provide more security. For those who rent apartment units or others who frequently need to change keys and locks for safety and security, many have switched to what is called the SmartKey lock. This style of lock is designed to allow the user to re-key it whenever it is necessary for security measures without having to call in and pay a locksmith every time, such as when someone moves out of an apartment unit, and a new tenant moves in. Companies such as Kwikset with the SmartKey lock or Schlage’s similar SecureKey manufacture such locks and market them not only as an economical convenient choice but also as a more secure option.
In fact, they market them as being so secure that they claim the lock cannot be bumped open or picked! But, are they really that secure?
Maybe you own one of these style of locks yourself, but even if you don't, most likely you have seen a SmartKey lock. It has a very distinguishing characteristic of a small rectangular shaped hole located near the bottom left of the keyhole. The SmartKey was specifically designed to address bumping attempts, which is what it is called when a pin-tumbler lock is forced open typically by using a metal insert key that has been smoothed down and cut to fit the specific brand of lock, and is created solely for bumping purposes. To tackle this security threat head on, the SmartKey was made to be a wafer lock manufactured by Kwikset and Weiser. Schlage also has a model that is similar in design.
But, how secure are they? Do they really deter picking attempts?
The way the lock works is by using five wafers that correspond with a sidebar and guide pins with the intent of providing the utmost in protection and security. The entire locking system consists of the housing, a lock cylinder, a core and a plug. The SmartKey makers claim that it is pick proof and bump proof, or at least resistant to break-in attempts.
Kwikset SmartKey locks are sold as an ANSI Grade 1, or sometimes a Grade 2, security intended to be used for residential purposes and certified by the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association. They advertise their SmartKey locks as being impenetrable and unable to be hacked using wires, screwdrivers, or any other forced entry tool in the keyway.
While, the security of the lock is touted, The SmartKey was designed mostly to allow users to re-key it themselves, which is a big selling point for those who find themselves frequently needing to install new locks or re-key their locks by changing the inside mechanisms to make it so that only a new key will open the lock after a break-in attempt or tenant turnover to provide more security ensuring you are the only one with a key that will open the lock. The lock is designed so that the owner can easily re-key the lock by using a special SmartKey tool inserted in the small hole along with the original key, rotating the plug, and finally inserting a new key to open the re-keyed lock. The end result is supposed to be a secure do-it-yourself re-keying system that allows only the newest key to open the locks, and hence, providing better key control and overall security.
Can there really be convenience and security wrapped up into one lock?
According to many who have successfully bumped open a SmartKey lock, the level of security that the lock brand claims does not seem to be the reality. The lock has a major security flaw. It can be opened quickly and easily in just a matter of seconds and with no special training needed. This can be done as a forced entry leaving no visible damage to the outside of the lock, which means the owner may not even realize that their residence has been broken into until it's too late.
To force open these locks, there is a special tool you can purchase, but many of these so called SmartKey locks are able to be picked and forced open with something as easily accessible as a flat head screw driver and a paperclip or anything similar that provides a flat, solid object to insert into the keyhole and a thin wire-like object to insert into the SmartKey small hole, located just below and slightly to the left of the keyhole, to mimic the official tools designed for re-keying the SmartKey lock. The special tool that is designed to bump open these specially designed locks breaks open everything inside, leaving no outer damage, and then allows you to turn and unlock the deadbolt to open the door. If you use a screw driver and a paperclip, or something comparable, the resident may not even be aware that the lock has been picked as this can be done leaving no damage, and the actual key will still work with the lock.
In the long run, regardless of which lock you choose to keep you, your family, and your property safe, the lock you decide upon is ultimately only going to stop law-abiding, honest people from breaking in. If someone wants to break in, they are going to find a way even if they forego the locks and head for the windows or an easier route inside.
Your safety and security is far more important than the convenience of do-it-yourself re-keyed locks. It's best to leave the re-keying of a lock to our skilled experts who will provide you with a brand new inner mechanics along with a key that will only open that lock and who are available at your convenience anytime and as soon as you call. If you want to feel truly safe inside your home, think about adding a home security system, lights that are automated, and additional locking methods that our trained professional locksmith specialists are able to recommend and maintain at your convenience and a price you can afford. Don't ever take chances when it comes to safety.