Category: Lockpicking

2600 off to a roaring start

The State College / Penn State 2600 meetings seem to be off to a great start this year.

For our first meeting, we decided to do another lockpicking workshop. The workshop had drawn quite a crowd last year, and we figured that it was worth repeating. So starting the first week of classes, posters advertising the event were hung in the IST building. I’ve heard many reports that, in addition to people reading the posters, many teachers actually read them to their class and encouraged them to go!

Also good publicity was an impromptu lockpicking session that broke out during the IST picnic. I was wearing my Penn State 2600 shirt (more on that later) and Dean Foley started asking me questions about it. He was so interested, that not only did he insist I teach him how to pick locks, but he bought a set of picks off of us!

Dean Foley picking his first lock

Dean Foley picking his first lock

Speaking of T-Shirts, we found a company willing to produce them for us. We ran into some trouble with University Tees, who advertised themselves as being a printer for college T-Shirts, but then refused to print anything with the words “Penn State” on it, even when I pointed out the section in the club guidelines allowing us to do so. So after trying to resolve that issue, I ran straight back to an old friend,, who whipped up a prototype in record time.

Penn State 2600 T-Shirt

Penn State 2600 T-Shirt

We’re going to be taking orders for the next few meetings, then sending in a rather large order to get some bulk discounts.

The meeting itself was superb. We had 25-30 people attend, all completely new to the club, and a 100% success rate with picking their first lock. We even sold out of lockpicks by the end of the day!

The next thing we want to do is make TV-B-Gones, those lovely devices I’ve used to great effect in the past, but first we need to order them, set up some time in the Electrical Engineering lab, and secure the soldering irons. Shouldn’t be that hard with this much support behind us now.

We’re on the map!

The 4th installment of the Penn State 2600 club happened tonight. We had between 10 and 20 people, most of whom stayed around for the whole meeting, including some new faces. And as always, the pile of locks was present, and fun was had by all.

Penn State 2600

Penn State 2600

Things are looking up for the new club. We’ve had 4 successful meetings, we’ve applied for recognition from Penn State, and we’re on the map in terms of being an official 2600 meeting.Hopefully we can get a table at the involvement fair in the Spring and draw in some new blood to keep the interest up.

For the next meeting, I’d like to do TV-B-Gone kits, which would be around $18/person if we got more than 10 in one order. The appeal of doing a kit like that, especially at the start of a new semester, is to give members an introduction to electronics, radio, microcontrollers, and making cool stuff in a simple and easy to understand process. Hopefully it’ll spark (sorry for the pun) some interest in hardware hacking. Now all I have to do is actually set the whole thing up.

In other news, someone posted this awesome video of a demonstration of a nifty lock to a forum I visit, and thought I should share it. Pins within pins? Lockping bar on top? Extra tricky pin in the back? Yep, this puppy has it all.

And we’re in the black

We just broke even on the 2600 picks that we ordered.Yay!

And in preparing for this week’s meeting, I wanted to post a picture of what’s in that ammo can we use to hold all the supplies:


  • 3 Master Locks
  • 3 CVS brand locks
  • 3 “medium security” ACE locks
  • 3 “Low Security” ACE locks
  • 1 “Maximum security” ACE lock
  • 1 Helping Hand brand lock
  • 1 Samsonite TSA lock
  • 9 Cabinet Locks (thanks to LI)
  • 1 clear demonstration lock
  • 5 loaner pick sets
  • Keys to every lock

I have no idea how much money I’ve sunk into this collection, and I get the feeling I don’t want to know.

Meeting this Friday, December 5 at 5 PM in the HUB above the sushi place.

The lockpicks are here!

The lockpicks we ordered for Penn State 2600 came this afternoon. When we placed the order, I was thinking that we’d be getting the same pick sets that they had at HOPE this past summer.

HOPE picks

HOPE picks

But when I opened the box, they looked very different than I expected.

50 lockpicks

50 lockpicks

We ordered from a website called, who are really awesome guys. They not only gave us a great price on the picksets, but they also upgraded all the sets to their new “laminated ripple core handle” style.

The new 2600 picks

The new 2600 picks

These things have been going like hotcakes ever since. We’ve almost had enough sales to break even, and pretty soon we’ll be making pure profit, hopefully enough to start working towards subsidising some trips to hacker cons this coming year. I still have a whole mess of these things, and $25 buys you your very own set. So stop by if you’re in the area, or shoot me an email if you want a set. And for comparison, here’s the set that I usually use:

My sets

My set

I must admit, I really rarely use anything but the 3 picks included in the new set. Might be a good diea to grab a set myself…

A journey to find PA lockpicking laws

After this Friday’s 2600 meeting and the interest in lockpicking the group had, I decided to comb through the Pennsylvania Penal Code to find out the legality of lockpicks and picking within the state. Which turned out to be harder than I thought, as the penal code isn’t readily available anywhere I looked, and any site linking to “the laws” linked to 404 pages instead

It took me a few hours to track down a website with the full code on it, and in my journey, ran across this nice federal law making the use of the US Postal System to deliver a device “designed to manipulate the tumblers in a lock into the unlocked position through the keyway of such lock” quite illegal. So mailing soda cans is still fine, but “elaborate toothpicks” aren’t.

I finally came across this WestLaw website listing all the PA statues in searchable format, and came up with this dandy section:

18 Pa.C.S.A. § 907 D “Definitions”:
“Instrument of crime.” Any of the following:

(1) Anything specially made or specially adapted for criminal use.

(2) Anything used for criminal purposes and possessed by the actor under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for lawful uses it may have.

So, in theory, as long as the lockpics don’t have a big sign on them saying “criminal use only” or you’re caught using them to break into a house, you should be fine. But that definition is way too broad to be certain that some DA won’t decide to charge me for sitting in my room picking my own locks. So I’ve asked Judicial Affairs for some clarification, and I got this response this afternoon:

“[...]Thanks for your email.  We checked with University Police, and the following is a paraphrase of their response:

The only charge would be Possession of Instruments of Crime.  The only way for it to be a crime is to be caught using them. Similar to that of marijuana pipes.  They need to have residue inside of them to be considered drug paraphernalia.  Stores in town sell them as tobacco pipes.

In terms of the Code of Conduct, the possession of lockpicks is not a violation of the code.  However, if they are used to commit a violation – you use a lockpick and assault someone with it, then it may be considered a weapon[...]“

After I got that, I went down to the University Police station and asked to talk to someone about doing lockpicking sessions on campus (naturally, for educational purposes only). They handed my phone number off to someone who should be getting back to me tomorrow. I know it seems counter intuitive to be alerting the authorities to a potentially illegal activity I want to commit, but on the recommendation of the TOOOL guys, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and the best way is to invite the police to watch the session, and possibly give a few tips while they’re there.

I’m sure Penn State won’t be enthusiastic about a student group teaching lockpicking, but defense in depth includes physical security, which the SRA and IST majors don’t really get into. And if the physical security is weak (someone uses a master lock on their server room, for instance), even the best virtual security isn’t going to safeguard their data. And where Penn State leaves off, it’s up to student groups to educate the future security professionals of America.