I'm having a hard time believing that "a lot of safe owners" actually write down their combination and keep it in the same room.

Surprisingly, many people write the combination down near the safe, if not on the safe itself. Simply searching the room the safe is in is likely to get the safecracker the numbers he needs. A lot of safe owners will either scribble the combination on a wall or write it on a nondescript note.

How Safecracking Works

1 Answer 1


People write down passwords. We all "know" it or have done it, but since this is skeptics stackexchange, I looked for "evidence". I found a paper from 2011 where researchers watched the password creation process and user behaviour:

Of Passwords and People: Measuring the Effect of Password-Composition Policies

Storing passwords Overall, 31% of participants who returned for part two reported writing down the password they used for the study, either electronically or on paper. (See Figure 3 for details.) We found no significant difference in rates of reported storage on paper between our study passwords and real email passwords; however, reported electronic storage of study passwords is significantly lower than for real email passwords.

I could not find a study specifically about safe owners, but I don't see why human behaviour would be different when it comes to creating and remembering a password/combination of digits, when applied in a similar context, like safes.

There is lots of anecdotal evidence about this writing down of passwords of course. I remember Richard Feynman writing about his experience as a hobbyist safe cracker when he discovered this behaviour. He would look for a written down password at the sides of the drawers.

At the places I worked, with IT people, unfortunately, writing down passwords was quite common. I saw Post Its on screens with several passwords and user names. If you asked people to not do that, those notes would not vanish but move to another "hidden" place on or under the desk.

My bet is that people anywhere at all times wrote down passwords. When a secret message travelled through the Roman Empire and arrived at a secretary, I'm pretty sure that guy had the code to decipher the message carved into the side of his clipboard.

So yes, with the research paper at hand showing that people write down passwords, I go ahead and say it is very likely that safe owners do it too, because it's the same concept.

I know this doesn't prove that they keep the note in the same room, I haven't found a study on that.

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    @Daraos-Where is the evidence for the same concept that you are mentioning that safe owners do the same as people writing down passwords? Also provide evidence for "When a secret message travelled through the Roman Empire and arrived at a secretary, I'm pretty sure that guy had the code to decipher the message carved into the side of his clipboard." Nov 15, 2016 at 9:10
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    @pericles316 I think you are a bit too caught up here. Are you familiar with the concept of "anecdotal evidence"?
    – daraos
    Nov 15, 2016 at 9:36
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    @pericles316 Exactly, that's why there can be no "evidence" for the anecdotes. They are just there for entertainment.
    – daraos
    Nov 15, 2016 at 12:34
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    @pericles316 I really think you are getting carried away here. My answer is based on the researchers' paper. If you don't like the following anecdotes, please ignore them.
    – daraos
    Nov 15, 2016 at 13:02
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    @pericles316 Because protecting a safe's content with a numerical code and remembering it is the same as protecting data with a password and remembering it. Someone who writes down a password out of fear to forget it would do the same with a safe code, even more so since you can always reset a password but not a safe code. It really is so obvious to me that I didn't elaborate it in the answer.
    – daraos
    Nov 15, 2016 at 13:19

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