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Are door locks as easy to pick as in the movies? They seem to only take around 2-3 seconds to pick be it with a credit card or a hairpin. Is this realistic? Or is it simply Hollywood being Hollywood?

How long would it take an expert to open a random door lock of a house or that of a hotel room?

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I've picked simple grill/bathroom locks with things like scissors and pins with no training. Even orangutans have done it: time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,30198,00.html But picking a medium security standard door lock or padlock is much harder. –  Muz Feb 15 '13 at 5:19
Does anyone notable claim locks are as easy to pick as shown in the movies? –  RedGrittyBrick Feb 15 '13 at 15:30
@RedGrittyBrink it has been the policy of the site to allow for challenging claims shown in the movies that infer stuff like this. I dislike it but that is the policy. –  Chad Feb 15 '13 at 20:07
Actually the difficulty in picking the locks in a movie is proportional to how close the hero is to being caught. Typically a lock will take X-1 seconds to pick with X being the number of seconds between when the hero starts trying to pick the lock and when they will be caught. –  Chad Feb 15 '13 at 20:09
A bump key or gun can do it in seconds. I taught each of my kids at age 5 or 6 to pick locks, and a normal house lock can take them a minute or two. It is extraordinarily easy for basic locks, but the difficulty scales up rapidly! –  Rory Alsop Feb 16 '13 at 9:50
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2 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

This question is way too generic, because there is a variety of locks and they can differ quite a lot in what principle they're based on. However one thing can be said: most depictions of lock picking in movies and TV are inaccurate to say the least. They look more like the actors are handling a padlock (from the way they move the tools :)) than one in a door.

You should perhaps check out the Wikipedia entry on locksport to form your own opinion. Especially skim or read through "The MIT Guide to Lock Picking" linked from the Wikipedia article. This will give you a basic understanding for at least one lock type which is in widespread use.

Skilled people are indeed able to pick many a lock in under a minute, but most certainly not in 2-3 seconds. And keep in mind that lockpicking refers to non-destructive opening of a lock.

As for hotel room doors the situation is slightly different, because in some cases the access cards are prone to special attacks. So for them it is more likely. And some of the technology shown in spy movies has actually seen real successors. But that's a completely different league from mechanical locks. Which was also the reason for my initial remark of this being a (too) broad question.

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and hotel locks generally accept a master key, which can make the lock less secure (it accepts 2 distinct keys not just one) –  ratchet freak Feb 15 '13 at 18:28
Some electronic hotel locks had a vulnerability: theregister.co.uk/2012/08/24/hotel_keylock_hack –  Rory Alsop Feb 16 '13 at 9:51
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Common door locks can be opened in 2-3 seconds with a bump key. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lock_bumping

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If a single tap does it as shown in the video, you're quite lucky. Usually you will take longer than 2-3 seconds and a series of taps, even with bump keys. Oh, and expensive locks - unlike shown in the video - are usually built with higher precision and thus more prone to lock bumping than cheap ones. –  0xC0000022L Feb 16 '13 at 17:07
An O-ring lets you do a series of taps in 2-3 seconds. youtube.com/… Locks with bump-proof cylinders are more expensive. –  Max Feb 16 '13 at 19:36
cool. Hadn't seen that as of yet. And what I meant before that some more expensive than normal cylinders are still not bump proof and are actually more prone to bump keys because of the extra precision. –  0xC0000022L Feb 16 '13 at 21:38
Really, it takes one bump to open the lock. However, it can take you many tries to get it just right. but there's no reason why you couldn't do it in under a second if you got lucky. –  Chris Cudmore Feb 19 '13 at 17:16
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