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Date:	Fri, 20 Oct 89 19:46:00 EDT
From:	"W. K. (Bill) Gorman" <34AEJ7D@cmuvm.bitnet>
Subject: locks (again)

     We are considering the purchase of a vault for secure storage of such
items as tapes, etc. How secure are Sargent & Greenleaf combo locks?
What do we get for their "anti-manipulation" feature - just an extra key
lock that immobilizes the combination dial?

Date:	Mon, 30 Oct 89 23:11:00 EST
Subject: Re: locks (again)

 (Curiously, the original question's headers did not indicate the originator
 thus I must reply to the list)

The Sargent & Greenleaf lock is the subject of a small book on
how to manipulate combination (safe & vault) locks.  A friend actually
bought one to play with, and it is in fact somewhat easy to open.  I have
an old Yale that's essentially impossible.  The book describes
anti-manipulation features as: tightened tolerances, added mechanical
features to prevent reading contact points, and added features to create
false sounds or feelings.  In the S&G manipulation-resistant type,
the design prevents reading contact points and would appear to be much
more difficult to open than the vanilla type.

Date:	Sun, 5 Nov 89 10:24:00 EST
Subject: Re: locks (again)

>How secure are Sargent & Greenleaf combo locks?
>What do we get for their "anti-manipulation" feature - just an extra key
>lock that immobilizes the combination dial?

It depends on the model, but in general S&G makes pretty good combination
locks.  "Anti-manipulation" usually indicates just what it says, that the
lock design includes features especially aimed at making manipulation
(the art of opening a combination lock without knowing the combination a
priori) difficult.  One such feature would be additional (shallow) fake
notches around the periperhy of the wheels.  The best feature is one that
prevents using the actuator handle to apply drag to the wheel pack.

Date:	Sun, 5 Nov 89 13:47:00 EST
Subject: Re:  locks (again)

To a large extent, S&Gs are the best ( or one of the best).  We have 
them on a Mosler and and older Remington safe, both GSA certified
storage containers for classified materials, the Remington at Secret
and the Mosler higher than that.  The Mosler is a double safe, with
an S&G MP on the outside, and a special S&G on the inside (built to 
somebodies specifications).  Your local Mosler lock people will 
support the S&Gs with no problem, doing yearly maintenance, etc. and
getting you out of a jamb (pun intended) when you need it...

I am not sure what you mean by "anti-manipulation" feature;  ours are
MP locks, Manipulation Proof, but that really has to do with the 
internals on the lock, not an external locking pawl or anything 
like that. 

By the way, don't make the mistake that a lot of people do and fail
to get yearly maintenance done on the lock(s).  Sure, they most likely
won't need it, and you will be throwing around $100/year to the wind,
except for the day that the damned thing jams on you, and you discover
the extreme cost of having your safe/vault drilled...  Remember that 
these things are designed specifically to make it hard to do this.
The estimate to have one of our drilled by Mosler was many hundreds
of dollars, plus materials costs (14 diamond tipped bits, 2 drills
[they figure that they will burn out 2 doing this] and other assorted
things) plus the cost for them to weld in a plug of hardened steel
and then the possibility (if you are a cleared storage facility) that
the Government folks are not going to like the plug job and require
that you buy a new safe door and have it put on... Big Bucks...

Digital Express, Inc.

P.S.  We didn't have to have it drilled, we were just asking...

Date:	Tue, 14 Nov 89 13:47:00 EST
Subject: Re: locks (again)

Sargent & Greenleaf locks are very high in quality.  Their manipulation
resistant locks are still acceptable for use on GSA-rated classified
information storage containers.  LaGard and Mosler locks are no longer
acceptable because they can be compromised with auto-dialers.

The manipulation resistance of S&G 8400 and 8500 series locks is not
derived through the use of key-locking dials although locking dials
are available as an option.  The action of the locks is designed to
deter manipulation by preventing convenient contact between the lever
nose and drive cam.

S&G locks are among the best available.

Seth Zirin, CPL
Member Safe and Vault Technicians Association

Date:	Tue, 21 Nov 89 19:21:00 EST
From:	wcs@cbnewsh.ATT.COM
Subject: Re:  locks (again)

An organization I used to work for once had to get an S&G lock
drilled out from a secure room door.  Took about 2 hours and $600
for our local specialist locksmith to do it.  The problem wasn't
with the lock itself - the bolt mechanism was attached to the door
innards by four screws.  One of the screws had come loose and wedged
itself in the bolt mechanism, so the bolt wouldn't turn.  The door
was fairly substantial, and met medium-security specs, but nothing we
couldn't have ripped open with a Sawz-All  if there had been an
# Bill Stewart, AT&T Bell Labs 4M312 Holmdel NJ 201-949-0705!wcs
# also 201-271-4712!wcs Somerset 4C423 Corp.Pk 3 FAX 469-1355

#		.... counting stars by candlelight ....

Date:	Tue, 21 Nov 89 19:54:00 EST
Subject: S&G locks, Mosler containers

I believe ONLY the S&G locks are GSA approved. Also, if I am not
mistaken, only Molser containers (presently class VI) are accepted.

The S&G 8400 and 8500's are darn good locks. Uncle Sam uses a lot of
them, not just on containers, but office doors (with a special
extension & strike), and communication center vault doors. But
remember, anything can be gotten into if you have enough time.

A Mosler can be drilled. It is not an easy task. We go to great lengths
to try and get it open before we give up and drill. It takes from four
to 8 hours, IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING. We bring lots of bits, but
typically use big enough drill motors that they give little trouble
(except when you want to lift one ;-}) If you it do it correctly, the
container can be repaired and reused. If you screw up (or burn it
open), you will need a new control drawer. ($$$$)

A host is a host & from coast to 
no one will talk to a host that's close..............(305) 255-RTFM
Unless the host (that isn't close)......................pob 570-335
is busy, hung or dead....................................33257-0335

Date:	Tue, 21 Nov 89 20:36:00 EST
Subject: Re:  locks

There is a difference between a vault and a safe.  The mosler safe that
we use could be picked up and carried off if you had a small crane
and unbolted it from the floor I guess... It is not a vault, in that 
it is not a room, part of a building, with a large door on it.

In 'drilling a vault' and it causing the bars at the edges to be released,
if the door is in the locked position already, the bars should already
be released and in the jamb.  I can't see where they could become 
'more released'...  As to the door being unusable, the only way to 
do that would be to have a vault door that had thermite bars and 
cause itself to weld shut if it thought it was being tampered with.

The doors being asbestos filled, some are and some use a foam ceramic
that is pretty neat.  Something like space shuttle tiles...  Still, 
a torch (the right kind) would have no real problem cutting through,
nor would a cut-away wheel of correct hardness.  You just have to spend a 
lot of time and energy.  Our mosler is not fireproof, though the 
secure file is.  The file is asbestos lined, which is most likely a 
problem for some government agency or another, though I don't spend
any great amount of time in the safe  ;-)  so I guess it doesn't 
scare me too much.  

If you have a vault, in most cases it makes more sense to go through 
the wall(s), floor, or ceiling.  They take precautions, of course, 
but seldom to the level that they do with the door.  Remember, the 
real reason for the door is psychological;  it looks so mean and 
heavy that nobody would believe that they could get through it.
Not believing they can do it, they never try, and thus never do!
Otherwise, wouldn't it be much more plain, and hiden away where people
couldn't see it?


Date:	Mon, 11 Dec 89 10:41:00 EST
Subject: vault doors, was:  locks

At least in my agency, we don't drill, burn or force vault
doors. If locked out, the policy is to go through the walls.
This is a VERY slow process:
	blistr = 1 to n:
		Hack, chisel & torch (rebar)
		put out minor 'breath of the dragon' fires
	next blistr
But, it can be done. Further, once in, the hole can be repaired
with ordinary supplies (rebar, arc welder, wood forms and
cement) that are readily available.

Contrast that with the vault door. If you screw it up, or end up (gulp)
burning it, what are you going to do to fix it?  Do YOU have a spare
door? (:-}) Know where to buy one on the Wed. before the holiday
weekend?  Even if you did have all the paperwork approved (Ha!) and
Mosler had an EXACT door waiting for you (double Ha!), how are they
going to get it to you? Fed Ex?  Is your vault upstairs? Do you have
any idea how to get that new 1200 lb door up those stairs, and down the
hall past the water cooler, and onto the hinges?  In the meantime, your
vault is open. Who will guard it?

You get my point. Leave the door alone. Hit the wall. Bring lots
of beer, you'll need it.....

Date:	Thu, 8 Feb 90 01:17:00 EST
From:	Irving Chidsey <>
Subject: Re:  vault doors, was:  locks

	If I go into the local bank ( during business hours ) I can see
the vault door standing open.  It is a foot thick with massive bolts.  I
can also see the time clock the prevents opening during non business hours.
Through the inner grate with 2-3 cm bars I can see the safe deposit boxes
and their double locks.  On the floor I can see the sacks full of coins and
bills that the armored car just brought.  The Vault and door exude solidity,
safety, and protection.  They let you know that this is the right place to
keep your money and valuables.  They also warn malefactors that the vault
is hard to penetrate.
	The rest of the vault cannot be seen, but surely so solid a door
would be part of an equaly strong, solid vault.  Wouldn't it?
	Vault doors, like safe doors, are at least 50% public relations.

I do not have signature authority.  I am not authorized to sign anything.
I am not authorized to commit the BRL, the DOA, the DOD, or the US Government
to anything, not even by implication.
			Irving L. Chidsey  <>

Date:	Fri, 9 Feb 90 15:13:00 EST
Subject: Re:  vault doors, was:  locks

>but aren't vaults normally lined with fairly difficult stuff
>to penetrate?  Like armor plate or something?  Otherwise it

I missed the first part of this thread... but THERMIC LANCES will normally
penetrate 3' of reinforced concrete within about 2 minutes... and if that
will not do the job THERE are PORTABLE(yeah RIGHT!!) Plasma cutting torches
avaiable that exceed 16,000 centigrade...(according to the sales literature)
    I would think this to be adequate for the job...

Date:	Thu, 1 Mar 90 22:39:00 EST
From:	Doug Humphrey <>
Subject: vault doors, was:  locks

One thing to watch out for with thermic lances and/or plasma things 
if you are trying to open a safe; it will blow your whole approach 
if you manage to set off the smoke/heat detectors and call the fire 

Date:	Fri, 2 Mar 90 00:54:00 EST
Subject: Re:  vault doors, was:  locks

>I missed the first part of this thread... but THERMIC LANCES will normally
>penetrate 3' of reinforced concrete within about 2 minutes... and if that

Thermic Lances produce enormous amounts of smoke when they cut through
concrete reinforced safe walls or doors.  This is sure to set off
fire alarms and thermal attack alarms.  In addition, the large plume
of smoke rising from a bank across town might tip off the police.

These cutting tools produce blindingly bright light that is visible
for great distances unless shielded.

I've used mini-lances a few times and even they are not for the faint
at heart.  You can easily burn down the entire building with one
of these.

Date:	Mon, 19 Mar 90 13:24:00 EST
From:	Doug Gwyn <>
Subject: Re: thermal lances (was: vault doors)

Anyone who hasn't seen one of these in action is advised to check out the
movie "Thief" (starring James Caan) at your local video rental store.

Date:	Sat, 24 Mar 90 21:53:00 EST
From:	nitrex!
Subject: Re:  Opening an old safe?

There is a locksmith in the small Ohio town where my wife just opened
a retail jewwelry store.  His ex-wife walked up to a locked circa-1910
safe and proceeded to open it  --- the combination was unknown.  Her
comment: "I have a stethoscope in my fingers."

If the old Victor safe is anywhere nearby southeastern Ohio/PA/WV, we
could arrange a contact.

Rob Lake
BP Research

Date:	Tue, 3 Apr 90 14:47:00 EDT
From:	grumbly!
Subject: Re: thermal lances (was: vault doors)

->Anyone who hasn't seen one of these in action is advised to check out the
->movie "Thief" ...

Then after you've seen the movie - read the book 'the real story'.  The movie
doesn't follow it very well.  Book gives very detailed descriptions of a
pro burgler working for the mob.

				Richard Ducoty

Subject: Re: Opening an old safe?

   You also might try using a 'Black Light (UV)' to shine on the exterior
of the safe.  I tried this on an old safe, and found the combination written
in pencil on the back panel.  

Wayne McDilda
Network Specialist
Texas SP&GSC
Austin, Texas    (512) 475-2452   or

Disclaimer: I'm not paid enough to have my own opinions
            [ This is not my father's VAXmobile ]

Date:	Thu, 5 Apr 90 00:54:00 EDT
Subject: Re:  Opening an old safe?

Many people have the misconception (largely propagated by the media) that
safes can be opened by people using sensitive stethescopes.  However, by
and large no competent professional safecracker relies on sound.  Instead,
at least at the "agency" school, they teach students to rely on developing
a sensitive touch.  Many safes (particularly old crakerjack boxes) are not
built to particularly tight tolerances.  As a consequence, you can simply
feel the tumblers behind the dial when them impact each other.  By turning
the dial back and forth (let's not get too specific here) one can build up
a chart of where the tumblers impact each other and where the indentation
for the locking mechanism exists on each wheel.  More modern "spy proof" &
"manipulation proof" locks resist such penetration attempts.  However, if
you have a reasonably long period of time just about any safe can be opened.

A thermal lance is typically a hollow fuel rod with a high pressure oxygen
source in the center (2000-4000 psi gas tank) used to usually used to burn
through the exterior of a safe.  Unfortunately, they are very messy, loud,
emit a lot of light, and often burn up the contents of the safe.  You would
most often be better off getting inside knowledge about where to drill the
safe door, set up a jig with some low speed high torque drill and a set of
cobalt drill bits.  By the way, beware of alarm sensors and tear gas bottles
that may be hidden inside the door of the safe.

Apart from military operations, no one is fool enough to try to "blow" a
safe these days.  However, if you're in a hurry, spend a little time to
learn how to make shaped cutting charges to slice through the bolts in
the door of the safe.  Plastique will do the job in a pinch ... but some
time spend casting more uniform charges with metal liners will reduce the
amount of explosive and consequent mess to clean up.

If you want to do it right check out some old "It Takes A Thief" and the
more recent "Die Hard" movies.  They both illustrate appropriate methods
for opening the most resistant safes.

Date:	Thu, 5 Apr 90 09:52:00 EDT
Subject: Re:  Opening an old safe?

One final note:  It is often easier to go through the walls of a safe or a
vault than it is to try to penentrate the door of the device.  This point
is often missed by the amateur who takes the challenge of opening the safe
head on.  

Date:	Thu, 5 Apr 90 12:07:00 EDT
Subject: Re: What IS a thermal lance (Re:  vault doors, was:  locks)

>Exactly what is a thermal lance? 

     It's a cutting torch that burns steel as fuel.  A simple form is seven
steel rods arranged in a hexagonal array inside a steel tube.  Oxygen is
pumped in one end of the tube and the other end is ignited, usually by
first lighting a wood block, which will burn nicely in oxygen, and using
it to ignite the steel.  One of these will cut through a railroad rail in
a few tens of seconds.

     There are several major drawbacks to the thermal lance.  The type of
steel used is critical, and there are hazards if a poor type is chosen.
The amount of oxygen used is very high; you tend to need many cylinders
to get any real work done.  The lance itself is consumed rapidly, so you need 
plenty of lance sections.  This makes it a very expensive tool to use.
It's not used much by criminals, since the amount of equipment you have to
bring along is high.  Typical uses include clearing railroad wrecks.

					John Nagle

Date:	Thu, 12 Apr 90 06:10:00 EDT
From:	Doug Gwyn <>
Subject: Re: Opening an old safe

>Since it's a small town and probably doesn't have
>a lot of safes in it, doesn't it seem likely that the guy knew
>the combination and just said that he'd done it by feel?

While that's possible, it is nonetheless true that one can open
older combination locks by a manipulation technique without much
difficulty.  Newer locks, at least the good ones, incorporate
anti-manipulation features.

Date:	Thu, 12 Apr 90 06:47:00 EDT
Subject: Re:  Opening an old safe?

I suspect that nearly every office safe in existence can be opened by
rolling it into the freight elevator, taking it up to the roof, and
pushing it off onto the pavement 20 stories below.  It should at least
spring the hinges.

Money isn't fragile.

Of course, if the safe can't be moved this won't work.  Is there any
other reason it might not?  Am I just dreaming?

No, it's not subtle.  But who's likely to notice one loud crash in the
middle of the night in an office complex?
	- Brian

Date:	Mon, 23 Apr 1990 23:48:00 -0400
Subject: Re: Opening an old safe?

  Some very nice practical examples of opening safes and related items
can be found in the book "Surely You Must be Joking, Mr. Feynman" by
Richard Feynman. It's a very good read anyhow, but he describes how
he learned to open all of the file cabinets that were used for storing
the atomic bomb data.


Date:	Tue, 24 Apr 1990 01:20:00 -0400
From:	Jyrki Jouko Juhani Kasvi <>
Subject: Re: Opening an old safe

Opening old safes can be a REAL problem ...

	At least in one case it was darn dangerous too and
	I'd like to hear comments on how close we actually
	were to bang our brains out.
		You see, we had this decades old huge (about
	1*1.5*2 metres) safe with almost as old dynamite in
	it -- and the keys had been lost for at least ten
	years... Finally when the room the safe was in had
	to be repaired, something had to be done. The problem
	was that the building the safe was in, was made out
	of concrete, so opening it inside was out of question
	(No idea to collapse the whole pigshed -- with pigs
	and all, especially when the first floor was full of
		So the safe was lifted with a tractor and
	*bang* and carriend *crash* in the middle of *bum*
	the field *///*. There the lock (the key-part) was
	drilled open by a wolunteer (my poor dad actually)
	*screeeeeech* *sparks_too*, the number-part opened
	and the dynamite (in a surprisingly good condition)

Yours, JJJ -- (

Date:	Fri, 27 Apr 1990 16:48:00 -0400
Subject: Re:  Opening an old safe?

Tip the safe over and crow bar the bottom panel(with a giant sized can
opener shaped implement made of good steel.... widely used...but
you have to fabricate the opener yourself... works great on
most small office safes(read cheap construction)...

Date:	Mon, 30 Apr 1990 22:26:00 -0400
Subject: Re: Opening an old safe?

There is commercially available equipment that can open even a quite
complex safe.  For about $10k you can get as personal-computer-turned
safecracker that actually works pretty damn good!

$10k is a lot of money if you aren't doing it professionally, but I image
it pays for itself quite quickly for some people out there!  :-)

A friend that runs a security/sweep type business brings intersting things
like that over.

-Douglas Mason

Douglas T. Mason | douglas@ddsw1.UUCP or dtmason@m-net | 

Date:	Mon, 30 Apr 1990 23:11:00 -0400
From:	gopstein@soleil.uucp
Subject: Re: Opening an old safe?

I've been thinking about this problem for a while (while my library
tries to get a copy of "Guide to Manipulation"), and I don't understand
how someone can open a safe by touch.  This is my (apparently incorrect)

I found an old safe to experiment on (one which I know the combination
to), and spent a few minutes turning the dial and listening to the
tumblers contacting each other.  I was able to repeatedly hear all of
the clicks.  Then I thought about what the clicking information had
given me -- nearly nothing.  From the rotational distance between clicks,
you can only determine the thickness of the pins in the tumblers
which contact each other.  How can you relate this to the location of
the locking mechanism's indents? When you're turning the dial, nothing
is touching the indents, so there is no tactile information about where
they are...  You would get the same set of "clicks" no matter what the
combination is set to.

			-- Confused

Rich Gopstein


Date:	Mon, 30 Apr 1990 23:30:00 -0400
From:	szirin@cbnewsm.ATT.COM
Subject: Re:  Opening an old safe?

A safe technician supply catalog that arrived in the mail this week listed
at least three (3) "amplifiers" for use when "cracking" safes.  There's
more to it than sound, but sound is helpful also.

>More modern "spy proof" &
>"manipulation proof" locks resist such penetration attempts.

There is no such thing as a "spy proof" lock.  The term is "spy proof dial"
and refers to a dial that shields view of the numbers so they can be
seen by only the dialer.  A "spy proof" dial does not make a lock significantly
more difficult to manipulate.

No modern lock is called "manipulation proof" since manufacturers are
smart enough to not make wild claims that will cost them during litigation.
The correct term is "manipulation resistant" and refers to locks designed
with features that make traditional methods of manipulation impractical
or impossible.

>A thermal lance is typically a hollow fuel rod with a high pressure oxygen
>source in the center (2000-4000 psi gas tank) usually used to burn

The oxygen exits the tank through a regulator and flows through a rubber
hose at less than 90 PSI.  The 2000-4000 PSI would be a bit much for a
rubber welding hose.

Cobalt drill bits will not cut the plates and/or plugs of solid tungsten
carbide found in many newer high security safes.  The mini-lance is
often the only way to bypass these and other dastardly barrier materials.

I hope I didn't say too much,

Seth Zirin

(Member: Safe and Vault Technicians Association)

Date:	Fri, 11 May 1990 10:04:00 -0400
From:	Doug Gwyn <>
Subject: Re:  Opening an old safe?

Reasonable security safes are constructed so that they are not dependent
on their hinges for security.  Typically the hinges are on the outside,
so they are an obvious point of attack.  The actual locking mechanism is
usually one or more metal bars that extend into holes in the door's
frame, with enough overlap that they cannot be "sprung".

The easiest ways I know of to open safes is to manipulate them (with the
aid of a special wheel-pack plotting machine, for higher-security safes)
or to drill a hole in the right spot so that a borescope can be used to
view the fence area while the wheels are dialed so that the gates line
up with the fence.  Of course both these methods require some special
knowledge, which is a good thing too!

Date:	Thu, 24 May 1990 13:47:00 -0400
From:	"chaz_heritage.WGC1RX"
Subject: Method of opening office safes

1 Safe doors here are usually secured by huge bolts, racked in and out by a
handle or wheel in addition to the lock. If the lock is damaged the bolts
stay put.

2 Safe hinges here are usually huge castings or forgings, carrying the door
on pivot pins of similar diameter to the door bolts. Even if they are
smashed off with a sledgehammer, the door will still hold.

3 Safes, because of these measures, often weigh too much for a freight
elevator, and often have to be installed or removed with a crane. Ours in
this building are all on the ground floor (street level).

4 If a one-tonne safe is dropped 20 stories (60m) then its kinetic energy
on impact will be enormous; similar to that of a smallish artillery shell
(about 600kJ). I certainly wouldn't bet on being able to dig it up from the
pavement before everyone came back to the office the next morning!

If safes in the USA can be opened by dropping them like this then they must
be so light and weak that I'm surprised anyone bothers to put money in
them. Money, in such circumstances, is best kept in the teapot, where
nobody would think of looking for it.



Date:	Wed, 6 Jun 1990 01:47:00 -0400
From:	"Larry Margolis" <>
Subject: Opening a safe by manipulation

All Group II safe locks, by definition, can be manipulated.  Group I locks,
which are mostly sold to the government, are not susceptible to manipulation.
(And Group I R are also proof against radiological attack - i.e., they have
plastic wheels so they can't be X-rayed.)

I believe the reason for this is that the manufacturers want the locksmith to
be able to open the (group II commercial) safe if the combination is lost, or
if someone messes up trying to change the combination.  Manipulating it open
is cheaper than drilling it.  The government, on the other hand, doesn't care
if someone gets in to the safe *provided they leave evidence they have done
so*.  If the safe is drilled, blown, etc., then they know that someone has the
secrets that were stored therein, and can take appropriate measures.  What they
don't want is someone to be able to manipulate the safe open, copy the secret
material, and then close it up leaving no evidence of tampering.

Larry Margolis, MARGOLI@YKTVMV (bitnet), MARGOLI@IBM.COM (csnet)

Date:	Tue, 12 Jun 1990 18:57:00 -0400
From:	Doug Gwyn <>
Subject: Re: Security and Masterkeys

> Has anyone, as an exercise, tried to make a very highly protected area?

Of course they have, and not as an exercise either.
(Hint: Try breaking into an ICBM silo sometime.)

Date:	Tue, 12 Jun 1990 19:50:00 -0400
Subject: Re: Security and Masterkeys

> Has anyone, as an exercise, tried to make a very highly protected area?

Yes, we put the crypto equipment in a large double steel door enclosed
steel box suspended on huge shock absorbers and placed a double 24 hour
marine guard with automatic weapons at the entrance with shoot to kill
and ask questions later orders.  To my knowledge no unauthorized people
ever even tried to get into the crypto vault.

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