Thursday, August 25, 2011

Some Cruise Ship Doors and Hardware

I took a cruise in the winter.  Always good to escape my climate in February!  Since I had not been on a big ship before, I spent an afternoon photographing the hardware as seen in the public spaces.  I was even lucky enough to speak with the ship's locksmith for a short time.  [I am deliberately not saying the name of the ship and should you recognize it, I ask you not to say the name in the comments.]

At various places to provide noise or wind separation, were sets of push/pull doors like this with the most amazing glass knobs on both sides.  These did not latch so had no fire rating but created a weather vestibule on the other side along with the door below.

The outer door was the primary weather seal.  These were immense wood door pairs with double seals along the inside as you see.  The hinges were already showing the signs of rust and this ship was only a few years old.  Since I have not lived on the sea, I was shocked how fast the salt would start corrosion. 

The closing hardware on this door shown.  European profile with an oval cylinder.  I have had these apart a FEW times.  At first I was surprised by the lock function as it seemed it would only need to be passage.  Why would you want to lock people out on the deck?  I was told it was for emergencies if the ship needs to isolate a deck or section to keep guests out.  

This is an interior fire isolation door sitting in a wall recess.  I spoke after my photo tour to another passenger who had never noticed these doors and pairs of them were in about 8 locations on every public deck.  I was not surprised as the general public really does not see life safety hardware.   These doors were in pairs and this is the active leaf so it must close last and open first.  The inactive leave is out of frame to the right and it has automatic flush bolts once closed and it controls an overhead coordinator which is just removed from the ceiling.  I never measured but the hall was 8 feet high or a bit more.  The ship was finished in Europe so might be better to guess at 250 cm. (I photographed the fire rating label.  Or what I thought was the fire rating.  Lacking Italian, I can not be sure and not clear time was given on it as near as I could tell.)

This square at the bottom corner puzzled me for days.  A slight push with my toe and it would hinge back until hitting the wall of the recess.  I finally found a staff member to ask and it is for a fire fighting hose.  As soon as I was told that it was obvious.  Similar to prisons, you can not really evacuate the whole structure. Fires have to be fought from adjoining sections and containment is needed to stop the spread.

Well, all for now.  I am trying a new editor on Blogger and formatting of pictures is not happening smoothly and yet the text is doing better.  This post looks good to me, but if it does not to you, feel free to toss me a message with perhaps a screen shot.  Thanks.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Talking to a Client Getting Access Control

I have dealt with a few clients who were getting access control and realized they did not always know the questions to ask.  Usually, I am speaking when the access control contractor is not present to answer these questions.  I thought I might comment from my point of view.  I have seen these give problems since the access control is already going in but after a bit of talk it is not clear the end user knows of the lock issues.   (Modern systems use prox or proximity readers often embedded in cards.  There are several types of credentials, but I will just call them all cards.)

Several examples of many I could find:

Do you still have a key operated way to walk from the outside of the building to the power supplies and the controllers?

Power goes out and if you can not get into the building, you can not check function or its real security.  Also, the computer which checks the credentials may shut down in a power failure or for 1000 other reasons.  In the end a few people should be able to access physical keys to get to this critical infrastructure.  Often, people think this means carry that key all the time.  Not necessarily.  I can think of one building operator who carries a key for the exterior and the office. Once in there, further keys are available.  (Advise to everybody: If you need a key once a year store it where you have access at that time.)

Who has the keys to bypass the card reader doors?
Access control systems have two great advantages. First is that only those with a valid card can go through a door. Second, you have a record of who and when opened the door and just as importantly when a card was denied.  This second part is called an audit trail and if you ever hope to use it in a legal process it has to be as solid and complete as you can make it.

Getting a valid audit trail then involves changing the keying on every door used in the access control system if anybody who now has a card formerly had a key.  (The exception would be if it is truly a high security keying systems and you can account for every key.  In this case, high security means the locks and keys are UL 437 standard rated.)  This generates only a very simple keying system for these doors since daily operation is not using the key so many can be keyed alike.  A separate master key may exist to open the path to the power and control units.  Typically after implementation of access control, a large building would have less than 10 of any of these keys.

Are you also getting cameras on critical doors?
Many organizations move to access control since they have so many staff.  Any large staff has some level of turn-over and it is cost effective to be able to disable one card at a time without affecting any other staff member. Also, you do not need to collect the key to 'kill' it.   However, most of these staff arrive at once and so many coworkers will open a door and hold for the next person.  It is polite, but may not be appropriate for your needs and a camera can show that happening.

Also, if you ever take legal action the card opened the door.  It is often helpful to say who was the person holding the card at that point when the card was used.   A camera on key points of entry can solve many of those.  (There are high security systems which enforce carding in and out rigourously.  Key points are then monitored by armed staff.)

This can also help with contractors like perhaps the photocopy technician.  You have to set up a few visitor cards with some limited access and a paper sign out process.  If a card goes missing, it can be deactivated.  A camera will tell you when that person left and if anything was moved out at the same time.  I have seen a case where my visitor card ended up opening EVERYTHING.  In the case I am thinking, I did not need into the cash office and if I had to be there should have been under escort.  So the escort would open the door.

Does key use generate a 'force entry alarm'?
If you want a full audit trail, everybody needs to be uniquely identified when they enter a door.  Since you must have key holders for emergencies, they should have a card also and use it.  When a key is used to open the door, it should register as an unusual event in the audit logs. From the wiring point of view, this is exactly the same as somebody prying the door open so it goes into the log as a 'forced entry' in most system.  A door needs an inside motion sensor to make this work so it has a way to tell if somebody is leaving.

Are blocking plates planned for every cylindrical lock set into an electric strike?
This is a cylindrical lock since it fits into a round hole in the door.  You can see the deadlatch at the end sitting beside the main latch.

There is a systemic problem with the deadlatch of a cylindrical lock falling into the keeper of an electric strike.  The installer can fine tune the spacing and get it right.  It NEVER lasts.  Well, maybe it does sometimes but I have seen it fail too often from simple door shift.  Once this happens, two problems occur.  The first is the extra pressure on the keeper acts as load on the strike and it fails to release on request.  (In the short term, pushing or pulling the door into the frame will take the load off and let you in.)  The second happens on outswing doors.  The dead latch is now out and any little screwdriver or knife or fingernail file can walk the main latch back and open the door.  Once you see scrapes on the latch, you know it is already happening.  Most doors will take off the shelf blockers which install quickly to stop this and then you can adjust the keeper to always let the full latch fall in.

Who controls the computers?
Access control moves building security partly away from building operations and over to the IT department.  Even if the hardware people assign and track the cards and can read the audit trail, the computers this lives on gets maintained and secured by IT.  Given this, it means the server to do this job should be physically isolated like a cabinet which holds master keys. Check that it is. What it takes to secure a computer in these days is beyond me. However, my reading suggests vigilance is vital -- as it is with all security concerns.


Since access control is a bit beyond my scope, I will stop asking questions now.  If you are the client, you should not do the same.  Every question you ask, may solve some security hole you have not seen yet.

--- --- --- --- ---
The contents of this post are released for non-profit or educational use in whole or in part provided this statement and the attribution below are kept attached.

Laux Myth ... Thoughts From a Locksmith
By MartinB, Found @

Friday, August 5, 2011

Worn Keys and Copies of Worn Keys

To work in a shop, is to have people walk in with a very worn key to their house or car. It still works but they want a copy. With one look, I know it is not that simple. Sometimes I know a copy of the key will work fine and sometimes I do not know that.

Let's start with what I like to see. For most keys, you should see small flat areas on the key and these are where the pins or wafers are to rest on. Between each flat is some kind of ramp or peak to allow for the key to insert and withdraw. The steep parts should be even and smooth. This is a well cut house key.

You can see the 5 flat areas and the peaks between have very clear starts and stops with nice 45 degree angle slopes. If you look down at the cuts, you should see smooth cut surfaces. This photo shows the lines the cutting wheel made going up a steep. You should see these or very lightly. The key on the left is worse in that the lines are more visible and deeper. This makes your key into a small file which grinds the bottom of the pins every time you use it. Cut marks are visible if one or more of several things happen:
-- the cutting wheel was dull, or
-- the carriage was moving horizontally too fast, or
-- the cutting wheel is dull.

This is a worn key which has had time for any cut marks to be worn down. Even as a pro, I can not tell where one cut starts and the next begins. It may work fine. It may work good. Often you ask the client if it works and they will say 'yes'. The problem is it works for that person since it has worn out with use. The person has learned the sweet spot to hold the key or puts up with a bit of jiggle to get it to turn. I can feel the same lock and know the fit is just not right but the worn key does work ... if you wanna call it that.

However, if you duplicate this key, the copy may work or it could be worse. Basic key duplication is like a photocopy machine for a page of text. The machine can be better or worse but if you serially copy the copies enough, the errors build up. I can tell the key above is NOT a factory original since it is not on a Nissan blank. (Given the age of this lock series, the car is a Datsun and the original key would say that in work or logo.)

However, in the trade you do much like the hardware stores and usually just cut the copy and give a warranty that should it now work, the customer can bring it back. Unlike the hardware stores, I often know the most likely key copies to have problems and I have alternate methods to solve the problem should the client return.

A comment on key machines. The machines I see in hardware stores are semi-automatics worth $800 to $1000 but sometimes less. They can be re-calibrated if they are not cutting correctly but the staff lack the tools or skills to do that. A good lock shop will spend $1500 or more on the duplicator and since we know we have to cut keys for high precision locks we keep the machine checked for calibration. (Some locks demand highly faithful copies and the hardware stores do not even stock the blanks for them. Why should they since I doubt they would usually get a key precise enough to work?) Calibration requires tools and time and using up a few key blanks.

Don't worry too much. If your house key says WR5, WR3, KW1 or KW10, a cheap duplicator will work fine. The machining inside the lock will forgive all kinds of mistakes in cutting copies of your key. The sloppy workmanship making the lock also keeps the cost down and makes it so I can pick the lock easy should you be locked out. Have a nice day.