Safe-cracking robot autodials combinations to brute-force a high-security safe


18 Responses to “Safe-cracking robot autodials combinations to brute-force a high-security safe”

  1. Lobster says:

    Damn machines putting us honest safe-crackers out of work! D:

  2. b00jUm says:

    “lesser strongboxen” – loved that!

  3. jjsaul says:

    Too cool.

    Speaking of which, I wonder if generation of heat is a consideration limiting how fast this could work when time is of the essence.

    It’s great that it leaves the safe and the contents undamaged.

    • Max says:

      Check out :
      That explains how a combi lock works.
      If you spin the dial too fast I imagine the disks in the back would continue spinning a bit when you stop spinning the dial. That’s more likely to be a limiting factor than heat generated in a system that probably doesn’t have much friction.
      When a normal human tries to enter the code they generally stop a few digits before and then rotate the last few degrees slowly to avoid overshoot on the dial and coincidentally in the back.

      (I know I do! One tip for entering the code is to put your thumb from the other hand on the dial to give it a bit of extra friction to stop you slipping past the number)

  4. Brainspore says:

    If I recall correctly James Bond had one of things in the late ’60s.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Most safes have 100 digits and a three number combination, so it probably had 1,000,000 possible combos. If that’s true they got darn lucky opening it on the 20,000th try.

  6. Jeff says:

    I for one welcome our new safe-cracking robot overloards.

  7. semiotix says:

    They eventually opened the safe, but didn’t find anything interesting in it.

    I say they put their safecracking robot in it, then re-lock it and sell it at a profit to the next guy with the pitch “Guaranteed to contain something interesting.”

  8. Anonymous says:

    ISTR that for the most part, the government has switched to electronic locks that:
    1.)have no fixed correlation between the dial position and number
    2.)have a timed lockout feature after a number of incorrect tries. (this is a pain when you ALMOST remember the combination)
    3.)can’t be hacked by using x-rays to find the combinations.

  9. bcsizemo says:

    Aren’t things like this commercially available?

    I know it’s cute when a couple of MIT people do it, but I seem to remember seeing challenges against professional safe crackers and robots similar to these many years ago on Discover or TLC.

    If memory serves me the human won most of the time against the brute force robot.

    • chupon says:

      Safe dialers are commercially available. I actually know virtually nothing about this field, but the ITL 2000 (for instance) notes that it isn’t compatible with manipulation-proof locks including, quite specifically, this one:

      So I guess that part of the point is that they managed to be extremely clever about the way they built this particular safe dialer — clever enough that it could actually crack open a manipulation-proof lock. It also sounds like they built to target weaknesses in this specific lock and no other (but I may be mis-reading it).

      Also it’s fun to watch so that’s nice.

  10. technogeek says:

    Yes, dialers are available commercially. The better ones take advantage of knowledge about exactly how these locks work to improve their performance. Ones which can handle a _serious_ Class 1 lock (one which requires a separate action to switch from dialing to opening) are less common and more expensive.

    Speaking as a part-time locksmith who has done a (very) small amount of safe work, I should note that on average these generally take a Very Long Time to open even a basic safe lock, making them generally impractical for criminal purposes. And that the wear they put on a lock can be significant — the lock should be examined and quite possibly replaced before the safe is put back into service. For both reasons, they are generally considered a “least worst” approach after more reasonable attempts have not succeeded or not been possible.

  11. technogeek says:

    Actually, the government is notorious for putting hugely secure locks on very-unsecure cabinets. They aren’t worried about someone opening the cabinet with a prybar — that leaves evidence that there’s a problem — they’re worried about _ongoing_ espionage.

    Or to put it another way: They don’t care that you know what they know you know, they just need to know you know they know you know. Y’know?

  12. Quiche de Resistance says:

    Utterly unsatisfying article. Approx 21,000 tries to open it, but HOW LONG DID IT TAKE? And how many possible combinations were there? Were there 200,000 combinations and the robot got pretty lucky? Or were there 30,000 combinations and the robot had bad luck?

  13. fireinwinter says:

    Holy crap. This is awesome!

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