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U-locks prove vulnerable to pen attack


Bike lock meets its nemesis

Large numbers of bike locks currently in circulation can be easily opened by nothing more than a pen casing, a poster to bike discussion site BikeForums.net has revealed. And not long after Chris Brennan’s revelation that he could open his Kryptonite U-lock just by sticking a pen casing in the keyhole and twisting it a bit, dozens of other posters reported that, hey, they could do the same with theirs…

The subsequent controversy has centred primarily on Kryptonite locks with cylindrical keys, that is a round keyhole rather than a flat one. But Kryptonite doesn’t manufacture the lock mechanisms and this vulnerability is unlikely to be limited just to Kryptonite locks – any lock using a cylindrical key of roughly pen casing diameter is potentially vulnerable. As yet there doesn’t seem to be any way of telling whether a particular lock can be opened in this way other than trying it.

Generally, lock picking isn’t seen as a major problem in bike lock design. Most thieves favour less subtle brute-force attacks to open locks rather than investing the time to acquire lock picking skills. But the pen method appears to require no skill whatsoever. There’s possibly a degree of (bad) luck involved, perhaps connected to the exact pattern of your key – we’ve spent a considerable amount of time going at a couple of locks here and haven’t been able to open either of them. But lots of people have – several of them have made videos of the technique (check out BikeForums.net for links).

Kryptonite’s response has been fairly swift. An initial rather vague statement said that the company would be bringing forward the introduction of a new disc-type lock (as found on the top of the range New York locks) on its mid-range Evo and KryptoLok products, but as the storm grew a subsequent statement has announced that some sort of upgrade scheme for owners of existing locks would be arranged. It’s obviously going to take them some time to sort this out, so in the meantime be aware that your bike lock may not be as secure as you thought. We’ll keep you up to date…

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