Protect your family – Medeco Captive vs Abloy Protec vs Mul-T-Lock vs Weiser/Kwikset SmartKey Locks Review

Recently, YouTube or MetaCafe are flooded with videos teaching people how to open locks using 2 commonly used techniques: lock picking and lock bumping. Lock picking does require some practice, but on the other hand, lock bumping is so scary because it doesn’t require any skills at all. Anyone can create a bump key from any old key and open the front door most of the houses without leaving any trace. Try to search on Google and you will be SHOCKED. It has been reported on NBC and other major media.

To protect our home and family, I started to do research on high security lock. I looked into Medeco, Abloy, Mul-T-Lock and Weiser/Kwiket Smart Key. I am not an expert, but from common sense and the power of Internet, that helps me to decide which brand to buy.

1. Medeco Maxum Captive

Medeco has been used by many government facilities and public transportation, and it is considered to be one of the best locks out there. I visited 2 authorized dealers in Toronto SLDSecurity (downtown) and Profect Security & Locksmiths (Pacific Mall). The price of Medeco product starts from $180+ CAD, and Maxum Captive is around $375 CAD. The Medeco Captive is a double cylinder lock with thumb-turn which can protect against breaking glass and trying to open the knob on the inside.

My analysis:If you understand the basic principle, Medeco’s design is based on pin tumbler locks. So, it DOES have springs and pins meaning it is vulnerable to lock bumping in my opinion (You have to understand how lock bumping works). Although Medeco special angle cut key and rotating slider supposedly can prevent from picking and bumping, Defcon hackers used a paper clip to bypass the slider in mid 2007, this raised my concerns. See links below:

2. Abloy Protec

After doing more research on the Internet, I visited a dealer “Tonnic Build-in Systems” in Richmond Hill, the lady knew a lot better than the one at Pacific Mall. Although I had a feeling that she wasn’t extremely technical, but she was very helpful. The price of Abloy Protec is around $350+ CAD (depending on color/finish), it has the same protection against breaking glass and trying to open the knob on the inside.

My analysis:Abloy’s design contains NO springs or pins, it is based on rotating discs and special angled cut key. From a security standpoint, disc tumbler lock cannot be bumped. Well, I wouldn’t say it is not pick-able because I believe no lock in the world is perfect. Download the Abloy PDF from TOOOL (links below), and you will be amazed by the design.

3. Weiser/Kwikset SmartKey

In Home Depot, you can find a new product introduced in 2007 called “Smart Key” from Weiser/Kwikset (they are the same company owned by Black & Decker). It is advertised that to be pick-proof and bump-proof. The innovative part is that you can reset your lock cylinder with a new key as often as you like, and you can have one key to open all locks in your house. Great concept.

My Analysis: The design is not based on traditional pin-tumbler,  it is based on Wafer Tumbler lock. It does have springs and guide pins with a side locking bar which makes the lock becomes pick-proof and bump-proof (watch the video on Kwikset site, it has detail diagram). However, the key is still a regular key with no specific angled cut, it can be duplicated in any hardware store. Also, the part I am worried about is the ability of re-keying using the lock itself,  I would be more comfortable without the re-keying feature.

Updated in 2009:Indeed, after 1 year of writing this article, it is not hard to find information and videos on Internet on how to decode and lock pick Kwikset SmartKey.

Updated in 2011: Correction made. I originally referred this as “disc tumbler” when first wrote this article. However, it should be “wafer tumbler”. The most scary part is, many locksmiths can help you open your SmartKey door if you lost your key because they have the bypass key or tool. I believe that’s the flaw of the re-keying feature, I am not sure but it’s scary enough not to use the lock.

4. Mul-T-Lock and Super-T-Lock

Mul-T-Lock is an Israel company and it is very popular in Asia/Europe. Indeed, there are many clones, for example a product calls “Super-T-Lock” (made in China, of course) can easily be found during my trip to  Hong Kong/Japan last year.  Note that their marketing is very smart,  not only their name is so similar to “Mul-T-Lock”, also they put “Germany” at the back of the package. They didn’t say it is “Made in Germany”, this is a common Chinese marketing trick that they really have a company registeredin Germany but without doing any real business over there.  Although this is not real Israel Mul-T-Lock, but with 1/3 the price I can get something that is not easily bump-able/pick-able, why not? It is better than any regular locks that you can find in Home Depot.  I just bought this for fun.

How does Mul-T-Lock work? Quote from their web site “These high security cylinders have a unique telescopic pin tumbler mechanism using external and internal pins. The external and internal shear lines have to be aligned so the plug can rotate. When the top and bottom pins, plug and body meet, a three-dimensional shear line is formed to create a spherical shape.”  These kind of locks are called “dimple locks“, because the key got a lot of indentations.

My Analysis: The design sounds innovative, but similar to Medeco it shares the same problem. It uses pins! I have a problem with this. Not surprisingly, I could easily found Mul-T-Lock picking and bumping resources on Internet:

Professional Locksmith Tools:

DealExtreme (DX)  has been always my favourite place to buy DIY parts and Gadgets,  in recent years they started to carry more locksmith tools. It’s free shipping and directly shipped from Hong Kong, bypassing your local laws if wanna buy some illegal items. Pricing wise is way better than eBay.

Conclusion

  • Medeco Captive: 6 pin tumbler with springs and pins with slide bar + angled key cut + protect breaking glass opening from inside
  • Weiser/Kwikset SmartKey: 5 wafer tumbler with springs and wafers + locking sidebar + regular key cut
  • Mul-T-Lock:7 pin tumbler with springs and pins, using external and internal pins forming 3D shear line + mul-t-lock key cut
  • Abloy Protec: 11 discs with no springs and no pins + angled key cut + protect breaking glass opening from inside

As you can tell, the winner is pretty obvious. I ordered the Abloy Protec.

Lock Arrived: Abloy Protec ME155

The lock arrived today but there is no installation guide or user manual?? WTF.. Maybe “Tonnic Build-in Systems” wanted to see if I am able to do it and they must have assumed most people will go back to them so that they can charge $60 for the installation. Sorry, that doesn’t work on me.

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(All photos were taken using the my old point-n-shoot Sony S85 camera, no DSLR for project photos)

Abloy Protec ME155 Installation

The authorized dealers didn’t give me any installation guide or user manual, and I couldn’t find it on Abloy web sites (none of them available for download). Well, with some understanding of basic lock, it wasn’t difficult at all.

Model: Abloy Protec ME155 (Lockable Thumbturn H2X Deadbolts)
Finish: US26D Satin Chrome
Cylinder Code: CY413
Bolt Code: LC801 – Adjustable Standard Bolt

First I removed my old Yale double cylinder. Next, I took the dead bolt apart in order to extend the length to 2-3/8″ to fit my door hole. Tips: there is a small button you need to push at the bottom.

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The lock comes with breakable tail piece for different door thickness, so I had break the tail part using pliers. All I had to do was to make sure both tail pieces could make the bolt turn and at the same time not touching each other. Tips: It is very helpful to hold the both sides against the door to determine how long do you need to cut.

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The installation was easy but  took me several hours. If you don’t have the right tools probably it will be easier to pay someone to do it.

Why is Lock Bumping/Picking so scary?

Because it leaves no trace, and Insurance companies can reject the claim because virtually there is no sign of breaking in.

Brute Force Attack on Abloy Protec – By Drilling

Updated in 2009: Abloy is not bullet proof,  it can be attacked by brute force drilling just like any other locks. A German company released a very nicely engineered tool,  with the perfect diameter that cut through the Abloy disc cylinder.  It can be done because Abloy’s cylinder hardened steels isn’t the hardest material on earth (diamond is),  so it is possible to cut any hardened metal with another harder material on earth.

Watch the video on YouTube (link below), you will be amazed by how fast it is. The tool is specifically designed for Abloy Protec, it cuts through the hardened steel  plate and cylinder. Although the video shows the Abloy core cylinder, I bet it will work on H2X series Deadbolts.

The tool is not cheap (around $100 Euro), I think Made in China version will be on Internet soon. But it’s very cool to see the video and link:

I am really not surprised any lock in the world can be defected by brute force, if there is a specific tool made for the specific lock.   A tool that is brazed with carbide tips thatcan cut through hardened steel is a known fact in the tool industry. On the other hand,  you can get an angle grinder from home depot with cut-off discs and you can easily cut any hardened metal in pieces.

Decoding Abloy

On technically side, I would be amazed to see the Abloy Protec lock being picked. Although I haven’t seen any video yet,  on the forum, I found a tool called “Falle-Safe decoding tools” that claims can decode Abloy locks. Well,  I don’t think  it is as easy as bumping/picking, but I do believe it is possible technically.

Build a better lock – Open Source

Just like software industry, the lock community started a project “The Open Source Lock”, anyone can contribute. The project’s goal is to develop a quality, high security lock.  I really love this idea.  In my opinion,  pure mechanical lock has its vulnerability,  you have to combine with more high-tech technology to fill the gap.   For example, to combat brute force attack, you can add a vibration/impact sensors on the lock that hooks up to the alarm system. Or, you can simply add RFID chip to the key.


Force Entry Prevention – Door/Wood Splitting

Standard doors and door frames in North America cannot withstand brute force kicking at all, which is an effective way for force entry. The technical term of this failure is called “wood splitting” – when force is applied on the door, your deadbolt is strong enough to hold the pressure but the steel plated door and wooden frame do not, that causes the wood to split.

In additional to dead bolt protection, it is recommended to enhance the door frame security replace the existing strike plate with a high security one, and also to add the deadbolt steel reinforcer plate before installing the deadbolt.   For extra high security, you can extra 2×4 to the frame  or even having steel beam to support to prevent force entry.


References:

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12 comments
johhny71cUK
johhny71cUK

I live in the UK and we have quite a lot of UPVC doors mostly to stop wood warping and having to paint or varnish them every few years,however criminals tend to snap the lock cylinders or pull them out of the doors rather than bumping, due to this I bought a mul t lock garrison break secure that snaps in a certain place rather than in the middle it can still be bumped but you need the garrison key, sadly they can be bought from several sites here in the UK,.

I would love to buy the Abloy protec2 Cliq as they are the best locks on the market at the moment. EVVA 3ks is also bump proof but can be picked and the Australian lock Bi lock looks very promising even though it uses pins but the side bars are not the same as in other pin tumblers and this stops bumping according to Bi lock. We also have a door manufacture here in the UK called rock doors they are made from a composite material and are very very strong they won the nick name BOBBY BEATERS as the local police tried battering it down with all sorts of rams and tool to no avail lol, so I was thinking of buying one for the front with an Abloy cylinder and one for the back but buying the vault door range with no key hole on the outside to stop lock manipulation

Anon
Anon

You wouldn't need to add a HID reader. Take a look at Abloy Protec Cliq. It is a mechanical protec cylinder with an electronic chip built in to the key and cylinder. It requires both the right Electronic signal and Mechanical cuts before opening and works just like your current key. It also never requires disassembly of the lock for batteries as it is all powered from the batteries in the key.

M. Gauvreau
M. Gauvreau

Hey there, I am a locksmith in the Montréal area, have been for over 10 years. I started my own company because I was tired of being forced to sell the high security that was easiest to work with, which coincidentaly was the one with the least security!! I have always been an Abloy fan, right from the first generation. Aside from coming to the same conclusion about the spring and pin flaws, there is also a small flaw in terms of possible combinations available in each keyway of both Mul-T-Lock and Medeco. According to my calculations there are approximately 250, 000 combinations per keyway in Mul-T-Lock, approx. 60 million combinations per keyway in Medeco, and approx. 60 million per keyway in Abloy. For me another massive key factor is the keys. Medeco keys are quite vulnerable to breakage (less so with their 3rd generation), whereas Mul-T-Lock keys are dimpled, but still relatively fragile. After working with Abloy for over 10 years, I have seen a total of 3 broken keys, one of which I broke myself for security purposes. Their keys are much less likely to break due to the fact that the metal is not compromised by cutting them, no springs in the locks to force pins resulting in forced (bent) keys, etc. All in all my research has determined that Abloy locks are superior in most situations, and I am determined to be an authorized dealer for the greater Montreal area.

Some Guy
Some Guy

I think having a Medeco, Abloy, or Mul-T-Lock is already a big deterrent. If someone without a plan is going to break into a house, they're going to pick the neighbour with the crappy lock before they try to pick your more secure lock. Otherwise, if someone has an eye on your house and its belongings, no lock is going to protect it. The person will probably end up using brute force by breaking through a window, or kicking the door down, or drilling the lock. It's not inconspicuous but it happened to my apartment in Montreal. You'd think one of my neighbours would have done something -- anything -- to prevent this considering how much noise kicking a door down makes.

Sacramento Locksmith
Sacramento Locksmith

i like to use the 5000 series, the 5900 series offers unmatched performance and reliability. This field selectable fail safe/fail secure unit requires no cutout on the frame for fast, easy installation. It accommodates 1/2-5/8” latchbolts (with 1/8” door gap). With patented vertical adjustability to accommodate door sag or misalignment, the 5900 sets the standard for concealed electric strikes.

Titu
Titu

LOL! After hours of maddening research on deadbolts I too am leaning towards the Abloy Protec. Hi Dennis, surprise, surprise, I just sent you my contact information to get your input on which deadbolt you use! What a small world. Talk soon. Nice blog by the way! Thanks MRSD!

Dennis McEntire
Dennis McEntire

Hello: I am an Abloy Protec dealer (1 of 2) in California and have sold hundreds of these deadbolts all over the world. I enjoyed reading your article and experiences with the field of high security locks. I had a similar experience as you did. Back in 2005, I stumbled upon toool.nl's website and learned about the bump key. I did all the research, read everything I could, and decided on Medeco. I had all kinds of issues with products I purchased on eBay - not being able to get keys made, things not fitting right, etc. So I decided to start my own business selling high security locks. I now carry the full line of Abloy products, as well as the Medeco line of locks. Believe me, in regards to "bumping Medeco" I have been following that story very closely, and have even met with Marc Tobias about it (the gentleman who's been saying it's possible). I feel safe selling Medeco as well on my website, but with all the publicity Marc has stirred up about bumping Medeco, it has driven people to seek other locks, and in my case, Abloy Protec. I am happy you like the lock, and completely agree with what your article states. Oh, on a side note, I have bumped open Mul-T-Lock locks as well. As you stated, they are based on a pin tumbler design, so it's possible to bump them open with a bump key. Thanks for your article. Dennis McEntire Bay Area Locks

Admin
Admin

Armen, wow.. your setup is extremely secure with combination of HID proximity reader and Medeco! The chance of breaking in by cracking the HID and bypassing Medeco at the same time is going to be really really rare. Now, You actually make me think of adding the HID proximity reader to my door!! Hmm... not sure if my wife will appreciate that additional step of scanning the key over the reader though. Anyways, thank you very much for comments, maybe that's my next project in summer time. HAHA..

Armen
Armen

Nice article! Thanks. In my opinion the best security would probably come from mixing two different types of locking schemes. I personally have both a Medeco deadbolt (although after reading this article I'm not sure if I should keep it or switch to Abloy!) as well as an HID proximity reader which is connected to an 800kg force magnetic lock (with backup). It works nicely and all you need is a key and a keyfob to get in. I don't know of any authorised Abloy dealers in my area but will check into that soon. Cheers, Armen Montreal, Canada

Admin
Admin

I discovered that the Abloy tightening problem is due to the thickness of the door, I added the deadbolt steel reinforcer plate before installing the Abloy Protec, which added around ~0.2 cm. And interestingly, this fixed the problem. Now, it can be tightened as firm as it can be.

Admin
Admin

Lopgok, you are right. When I tightened mine, the whole lock wouldn't move. My solution is NOT to tighten it too much, counter-clockwise a bit until you can lock/unlock smoothly. But of course, not make it too loose.

lopgok
lopgok

I also bought an abloy thumblock. I appreciate reading about your experience. Mine came with instructions, but neglected to mention needing to trim the tail pieces. Once I did that, the lock installed easily. I had to compress the icepick shield a bit to fit the hole in my door. Were you able to tighten down the allen bolts holding the front and back of the lock together? When I tighten down mine, the whole lock binds up, and I can't turn the thumbturn or lock or unlock it from the front or back.