Beating a Master Lock (key box)

I moved house a while back and the place came with one of those Air BnB style key boxes on the front made by Master Lock. There was nothing in the handover about it and it was likely that it had belonged to the previous previous owners as it looked unloved for a long time.

It has kept me up at night a little worrying about previous owners coming back, or someone turning up and guessing the codes to get keys. It has been on a rather long todo list to get into it.

There was a recent break in across the street so I have been thinking more about it. I was sticking a memorable to me 4 digit code on it and then checking on it periodically. This morning I found someone had changed the digits significantly. So that meant someone was very likely messing with it recently. The task leapt a few places to top priority.

Turned out it took me, a complete moron with no physical security experience, approximately 15 minutes to get into one of these… Using chopped up top trumps cards. Here are my weapons:

The theory is nice and simple and fully explained at the video below:

It is a little concerning that it was this easy to do so. I am also curious as to what would happen with insurance if we were robbed by someone who obtained a key and then used it to rob us. Isn’t there something about it not being a break in? I am not sure.

PS: for the terminally curious;

  • There was nothing inside it.
  • The code was likely a year of birth.

Why is this potentially really bad?

This is bad because these devices are used a lot in situations where the vulnerable or elderly need regular in-home care. If they struggle to get to the front door, or they are a fall hazard, then these can be fitted to enable the visiting care staff to gain entry. The good they do is undoubted!

Additionally what springs to mind is the AirBnb scenario. Many of these devices are used on short-term lets. Not only are these often vacant. There are usually web interfaces telling someone when they are empty.

What to do?

I would consider using these devices anyway. Because it is orders of magnitude better than sticking a key under a plant pot (like people otherwise do). But be realistic that this is not impenetrable and that it probably needs additional deterrents. So the classics of having gravel on the path to the door, a security light that comes on, and a camera if you are getting serious.

I am no expert in physical security so I am interested in other ways to mitigate the risks that are cost effective. I would also say that in the bulk of break-ins such subtlety is not even attempted. They just smash glass and open something. It is simple and works.

Take care

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