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In 1851, A Man Picked Two Unpickable Locks and Changed Security Forever

In the 1770s, master locksmith Joseph Bramah made quite a few improvements to the security of locks. He was so confident in his inventions that he issued a challenge, written on the lock above: “The artist who can make an instrument that will pick or open this lock shall receive 200 Guineas the moment it is produced.” Another locksmith named Jeremiah Chubb issued a challenge with his own lock, featuring his own innovations. Those two challenges stood against every attempt for a long time -until The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London.

One of the attendees was A. C. Hobbs, an American locksmith. Back in the states, Hobbs had made a name for himself by showing bank managers that their locks could be easily picked, and convincing them to buy one of his. Hobbs was selling lots of locks this way.

On day one of the exhibition, Hobbs publicly announced that he would pick the Chubb detector lock—the one that stops working if you pick it incorrectly.

Hobbs managed to unlock both locks! Gizmodo has the story of how he did it, and how his feat affected the security business ever since.  -via the Presurfer


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The key to the story is at the end: "The lock on your front door is probably pretty easy to pick, but using a crowbar or going through a window would probably also suffice."

With modern technology, it's pretty easy to make a completely un-pickable lock. But when you lose the key, it's a nightmare to get access again, and thieves would just use a torch or cryogenic cold to destroy the lock (or another part of the enclosure).

Safes, rather than locks, encompass a much larger segment of the picture. And an unpickable safe isn't very useful, when a torch can cut the back open in a few minutes.
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