Thursday, February 10, 2011

Opening the Kaba Simplex Lock: Just How Easy Is It? 

I have received a plethora of e-mail from concerned security officers and locksmiths throughout the world, in both commercial and government sectors, wanting to understand the magnetic attack on the Kaba Simplex series of locks that was the subject of my original article on February 1, 2011.

Kaba is one of the world’s biggest lock manufacturers, and my article about the class action against it caused everyone to want to know just how simple or difficult the attack is to accomplish and whether they (or their clients) are at risk in their facilities or homes.

Because of the number of locks that may be affected throughout the world (with many in critical facilities), I view this as an extremely important security concern. So, for the past week I have been investigating three critical issues as a follow-up: just how the vulnerability was discovered by non-experts in relation to the Simplex series of locks, what is the fix that Kaba has devised to ensure the security of thousands of facilities that rely upon these devices, and is their fix effective?

Yesterday, I interviewed one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. He is Jewish, Orthodox, lives in Brooklyn, deals in real estate, and until last summer, had confidence that his Simplex push-button lock would protect his property from unauthorized entry. It seems that Kaba has found a niche in the Orthodox community, especially in New York. Everyone uses their Simplex locks. Why? Because during the Sabbath, one cannot carry keys nor do any other work that would violate religious doctrine.

Essentially, Orthodox Jews cannot drive, use the phone, utilize anything electronic, or perform functions that are normally accomplished during the week. The Sabbath is supposed to be a day of rest in all respects. However, security is still important, and locking and unlocking doors becomes a major issue for those who cannot use keys on Friday and Saturday.

The Kaba Simplex solves the problem because it is a mechanical lock that utilizes push-buttons, which, believe it or not, are allowed under Jewish law. So Kaba has, in effect, created what I will refer to as its “Kosher Locks!” According to the plaintiff that I spoke with (who wishes to remain unnamed), virtually the entire Orthodox community relies upon Kaba for their security, both in their homes and many of their businesses.

Enter the dozen or so volunteers, the Jewish Geek Squad as it were, who help the elderly of the community when they need things fixed, technical-gizmo related assistance, or to get into their houses in Brooklyn when they have forgotten the combination to their door locks. It seems that in the summer of 2009, one of these volunteers figured out that many of the Kaba locks could be opened with a relatively inexpensive magnet.

So, for the past eighteen months, they have been performing Magnetic Mitzvahs (a good deed or charitable act under Jewish law) for the residents of Brooklyn, compliments of the deficient or defective design of the Simplex. The home and business owners thought it was a miracle: How can you wave your hand in front of my door lock and it opens? “Magic,” the saviors answered. “The Lords work.” They never told anyone how they were doing it. In fact, it appears they never told anyone about their secret until this fall.

And then the word leaked out and eventually ended up in the hands of lawyers, who decided that everyone was at risk and had been misled as to the security of the locks. They filed a lawsuit in November.


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