The Kroekel Boys

You can read some early thoughts about this in my first blog entry, but in short I came across mentions of 3 deaf brothers at the turn of the 20th century who were prolific young lockpickers. Unfortunately, the eldest spent most of his adolescence in jail as a result. Their story is both funny and heartbreaking, and I've had the genuine honor to tell it. A few years ago I even went so far as to drive to their grave site to sit in front of any remnant of them I could find. I left locks on Charlie and Oscar's graves, and took a rubbing of both as well.

For a while I thought I had found everything I could about the boys, and felt a bit haunted by their memories, then, in late 2014, I saw a tweet from their great-niece, and a few months later we began to exchange emails. Soon, this old project might sneak over into the "upcoming" section as I hopefully get access to more information about them than I could ever have hoped for.

Read more about the Kroekel's and see a timeline of their lives


Disc Detainer Locks

I've been a bit obsessed with Disc Detainer Locks for several years. While I haven't done any recent work on the subject, I have previously tried to come at them from just about every angle. Back when I was still publishing NDE Magazine, I worked with Jaakko Fagerlund, an amazing picker, tool maker and machnist, and Michael Hubler, an incredible picker and engineer, on Jaakko's method of decoding Abus Plus cylinders. Michael was our go-between with the president of Abus, who issued a personal challenge to Jaakko, which we covered in detail in NDE. It was Jaakko who first taught me to pick disc detainers, and he sold me my first tool (and then about 20 more) that was specifically designed to pick and decode the Abus Plus.

From there I have worked with Nirav Patel to 3D print disc detainer keys (way before 3D printing weird keys was cool...), gave a prize-winning talk on the urgency of the flaws in most American disc detainer locks, and did a deep dive on the subject with datagram at LayerOne. Disc detainers have occupied more of my attention and effort than nearly any other locking mechanism. While I don't have any immediate plans to dig back into this work, I'm very happy for the myriad contributions and collaborations I had a hand in.

Watch my Guide to Disc Detainer Operation & Manipulation Basics
See "The Abus Story" poster about Jaakko's Abus Challenge
Check out Nirav Patel's Program to Print Disc Detainer Keys
Watch my Talk "We Need to Start Attacking Disc Detainer Locks"
Watch datagram & My Deep Dive on Disc Detainers


Smart Locks

Having spent much of my career researching moments when large swaths of society were obsessed with advances in security technology, the recent excitement about smart locks really struck a chord with me. Initially, I planned to write some cursory opinions about a few of the more interesting companies entering the market, but in the end I wound up writing a 7000 word article on the state of the industry as of November, 2011. In the wake of that article I was introduced to a dozen new emerging products, fielded phone calls from CEOs at competing companies, and hopped on video chats with engineers looking to break into the market who wanted a bit of advice about their designs. As much as I enjoyed the incredibly rare moment of relevance (my work on the history of security rarely gets that sort of notice) I made it very clear from the outset that I was just trying to capture a snapshot of an exciting moment. The future moves fast, and my heart is still firmly lodged in the past, but I can't deny I'm thinking about maybe making the "Current State of Smart Locks" an annual report.

Read "The Current State of Smart Locks"