The bumping method or lock bumping, a double-edged sword. Used for years by professional locksmiths to perform the opening of locks in cases of loss of keys or in emergency situations, today the bumping method is a very common technique in robberies, both in homes and in business. Knowing it is within the reach of anyone: hundreds of web pages explain it perfectly.
In addition, it is relatively simple to apply; for this, only a properly manipulated key and any object with which to hit, for example, a simple screwdriver, are necessary. It is estimated that more than 90% of the locks on the market can be opened thanks to the bumping method. Therefore, the danger exists. It is time to analyze the problem and find solutions in this regard.
It is a technique for the opening of cylinders that is not very novel, but today it is news again because in recent times we are witnessing its boom again and, unfortunately, in its most dangerous aspect. From Eastern Europe, gangs of criminals have reactivated their use and spread it throughout the rest of the continent, in parallel with the expansion of their criminal activity. But … what exactly is the bumping method?
Bumping: a dangerous technique due to its simplicity
Known also by the name of ramping, this technique consists of the opening of cylinders of clean form, without rupture, by means of the percussion of its pythons through keys manipulated for it, the so-called bump keys. It is simply to move all those pistons simultaneously by hitting a bump key with a blunt object (a hammer or a simple screwdriver can be used), thus separating those pitons from the contraptions and releasing, therefore, the rotation of the key. We are talking, then, of a simple operation, of fast execution – no more than 30 seconds – and that does not damage the closing device.
Surely, you are familiar with Newton’s cradle, a device with five equal balls that hang from a frame and are in contact at the same height and perfectly in line; Well, this simple mobile explains perfectly the principle applied in the bumping method: If at one end we lift a ball and let it fall so that it hits the row of suspended balls, that ball will transfer without moving all its energy to the next ball and so on, until the ball on the other end rises and separates from the others.
Something similar happens inside a cylinder when we introduce a bump key and hit it: when transmitting the impulse to the pythons, they tend to remain fixed in their place, while the contraptions separate from them. This happens only for a moment – until the springs push them back against the pins – but during that minimum fraction of time the safety of the cutting line is released and the key can be turned.
Bumping, popular technique, generalized danger
Without creating social alarmism, it is therefore appropriate to emphasize the danger that currently exists due to the improper use of this technique, especially when -one- today anyone can have access to it (detailed explanations are easily found on the Internet. on how to apply it, and even in some European televisions reports are issued on the matter); and -two- because it has been detected that the method works not only in cylinders of low quality but also in some of the high cost, among which are cylinders considered of the highest level of safety.
It is convenient, at this point, to provide a piece of information that can help to measure the magnitude of the problem: according to experts, more than 90% of the cylinders installed today can be opened by the bumping method.
The problem concerns both the serrated key cylinders and the dotted key cylinders. There are already machines that allow you to create bump keys based on the numbers that represent the depth of the different positions of pythons. Without a doubt, having one of them accelerates the process of cutting the keys in the exact position, but in the worst case, it is always possible to resort to manual processes.
On the other hand, it is important to know that the bump keys, once cut, can be duplicated with a common copy of keys; and also that it is not necessary to have a key blank to make a bump key, since all the cuts in it are at the maximum depth and, therefore, any finished key can be used to make a bump key.
Bumping: A double danger: theft without evidence of a crime
The bumping technique leaves practically no evidence of its use. To begin with, the cylinder does not suffer breakage. Secondly, it should be noted that the external signal that is produced – a mark that leaves the shoulder of the key in the cylinder – can be avoided. And with regard to the signs that can be left in the pythons, it must be clarified that they can hardly be detected with the naked eye.
They are only seen through a microscope. The reason for all this is quite logical: the insertion of a bump key does not differ much from that of a normal key. Therefore, with the exception of minimal nicks or deformations caused by impacts, it is sensible to assume that, if the proper precautions are taken, the bumping method leaves no relevant trace.
This circumstance has caused that, in some European countries, insurers do not cover homes stolen by this technique, alleging the lack of aggression or breakage of their access elements. Although it is also true that often the coverage of the contracted policy (in which the security elements are listed) is without effect because the manipulated cylinder is not security.
Fortunately, it is possible to affirm that like any problem, it also has a solution. As manufacturers of elements that guarantee maximum performance and aware of the risk involved in this technique, all our cylinders are protected against this attack. But in the same way, it should also be noted that not all cylinders that are called high security incorporate protective measures against this attack.