Programmer's Logic Behind Lockpicking

More so now than ever, Cyber Security has been making appearances and headlines in the Hollywood industry. From the popular “Mr. Robot” series to the upcoming Edward Snowden movie being released in the next few weeks and several others. While I enjoy these programs for entertainment purposes I can’t help but incorporate my professional expertise. While watching Mr. Robot I noticed a hacker Whitehack/Blackhat correlation and lock picking. There are quite a few scenes in Mr. Robot where the main character Elliot is “doing his thing” on the doorknob, no pun intended.


Some other Movie/TV-show titles that showcase a presence of the hacker profile type person associated with lock picking are:

  • Mr. Robot
  • AntiTrust (2001)
  • Person of Interest
  • CSI: Cyber
  • Leverage
  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)
  • Blackhat (2015)
  • Hackers (1995)
  • Algorithm (2014)
  • ….and so much more

Getting Started:

Many years ago as a result of boredom creating custom picks became my hobby of the week. Soda cans, hairpins, old computer parts…anything in sight that could be molded in to a pick became a tool. Eventually custom homemade picks kept on breaking and I decided to broaden my horizons and switch to industrial picks. I tried a few companies that sold picks and ended up using Southord, which I later learned, are used by the world’s most elite. They have the best tensile strength and it is backed by thousands of reviews from professionals and average people.


Here is my Southord PXS-14 Set, ordered a few extra tension tools with the combo. Have yet to bend/break a pick!

Lockpicking 101:

When you are picking a lock, you are using the tension wrench (bottom tool) to turn the plug (cylinder that key goes into). When you raise the pins into the hull (top part where the other pins are), the plug rotates so much that there isn’t enough space for the top pin to physically re-enter the hole and therefore rests on the plug. The idea was to get all pins to set at the same time; it would be virtually impossible to pick a lock… thanks to either error or just poor manufacturing, the holes in the plug (that the pins go in) aren’t drilled in a perfectly straight line, and therefore can be manipulated. The idea is to turn the plug just enough that it “catches” the pin drilled furthest to the side. When you set it, the plug rotates and catches on the next one…then you continue to rinse and repeat for the lack of a better term.


What’s the Correlation?

Like lock picking, programming has the same fundamentals. Follow a series of “flowchart” like data, and you’ll reach success at the end. In reality, it’s more than that. It’s an obsession to find logic and mathematics in everything we do.

Here are a few examples to get the brain spinning:

  • Always trying to get to my university by taking different paths, goal is to achieve the best time optimal path.
  • I take time to compile my thoughts before executing them.
  • Chess, by playing 5 moves ahead of your opponent.

Locks are used everywhere, no question about that. The rudimentary key and lock system dates back to 4000 B.C. To a certain extent, one can say we haven’t really past this structure and it’s not questioned in our daily activities. It sorta just been there, and we use it, and life continues.

When I see a lock, I see an unsolved puzzle. Specifically, I see a math problem. That I can solve without a key, instead I can solve it with picks, a soda can, maybe even without physical contact. This drive of puzzle solving is the same drive I get with programming, cyber security, reverse engineering, and so on / so on.

To be continued..(Will mark the post updated when fully finished)



OSCP Certified, Technology Enthusiast, CTF Player, Vulnerability Research, Reverse Engineering, Pen-Testing, and other.

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