What Is a High Security Lock?

People who have shopped for locks have probably come across ads or have listened to a sales pitch which has described a particular lock as being “High security”. Just what makes a particular lock “High security”?

A high security lock starts with the conception of a unique and original lock and key design,or the improvement of an existing design. This design must become protected by a patent. The design must incorporate features that make manipulation of the lock cylinder more difficult, conforming to a higher rating standard. What do we mean by “Manipulation”? Basically, techniques such as picking, bumping, impressioning, to name a few. Additionally, the materials used in the design and manufacture must be of superior strength and quality to be able to withstand physical attack. Some examples of physical attacks include drilling, prying, and kicking. Subsequently, the new design is submitted to an independent testing authority.

In, North America new lock mechanisms are tested by the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA), which is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Locks can also be tested by the Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Underwriters Laboratories’ UL 437 and ANSI/BHMA A156.30 conducts testing to rate a locks resistance to covert and forced entry, but neither standard actually defines what a “High security lock” is.

ANSI/BHMA A156.30 references high security standards and does conduct tests to evaluate high security locks under the categories of Key Control, Destructive Tests (I.e. Drilling the cylinder), and Surreptitious Tests (I.e. Picking). These various tests are measured against a “High security” standard. These standards are based upon the training level of the tester, the tools used by the tester, and are to be conducted within a given amount of time. These standards must be met in order to receive a certification. Once certified, other safeguards, such as in process auditing, exist to ensure continued quality compliance.

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