Maintenance Bulletin

The Key to building security: everything old is new again

Managers have a new security threat to deal with, but in reality, it’s not so new. The threat involves revelations that it possible to make a building master key using a key blank, a file and an existing key and lock to a building.

This technique is not new to the locksmith industry, according to a report in the Jan. 23 issue of The New York Times. But it worries some security experts because even amateurs can file a master key with several tries and because it requires only a few minutes to carry out.

Matt Blaze, a security researcher at AT&T Labs, recently described his logical, deductive approach to learning the shape of a master key by using clues provided by the key in hand. Blaze’s technique narrows the number of tries necessary to discover a master key configuration to only several dozen attempts, not the thousands of blind tries that would otherwise be necessary.

This lock-decoding technique notwithstanding, administrators at the University of Utah are not overly concerned by the threat.

“I met with my staff about a week ago after seeing that article, and we decided it was something that shouldn’t worry us too much,” says Pieter van der Have, associate vice president of facility management for the university. Van der Have says the university relies upon a mix of electronic key cards and standard locks and keys.

“With the keys that many manufacturers use — the kind we’ve got here on campus — they’re more secure because the blanks are patented,” he says. “ The computations necessary to create a master key on a patented key system would require many more attempts than described in the article. Ultimately, we determined it wasn’t that great of a threat to us.”

Security experts quoted in the Times support van der Have’s claim. Patented key systems use blanks that are harder to procure, and the shape of the key shaft itself can make cutting blanks blindly a more difficult process.



Lamps to carry recycling information

A nationwide program to label mercury-containing florescent and high-intensity discharge lamps and their packaging will begin this year, says the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA).

Until now, individual U.S. states and Canadian provinces have had different disposal requirements. To unify the requirements, NEMA developed, which has links to disposal regulations in all states and a list of lamp-recycling companies.

To help further unify lamp disposal regulations, NEMA has begun working with state legislatures to require mercury-containing lamps to carry the lamprecycle URL and a toll-free number on lamp packaging.


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  posted on 2/1/2003   Article Use Policy

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