Missteps Physical Security Security

Misstep 4: Pretty Friggin’ Suite

A door showing a locked deadbolt and exposed hinges

Another example of “A chain is as strong as its weakest link”, this door was inside of my suite during my stay in Los Angeles. I assume it is for cleaning supplies, coffee supplies, or similar so that the room service folks can save time not transporting all of this without an elevator.

But lets just pretend for the sake of this blog that they store some fine Chicago-style pizzas, millions of dollars of money, and some Cinnamon Coke behind here. First of all, I wouldn’t have wrote this blog because I’d have broke in already. But, here we are.

The deadbolt was locked with what strikes me as a Kwikset KW1 keyway (may be a 6-pinner, no idea). Let’s just say I can’t pick a lock? How else can I breach this door non-destructively?

A door hinge

Generally you’ll have an “unsecured side” and a “secured side”, or “sterile side” in FAA parlance. This delineates the side that is public, and a side that is private (boarding area for aircraft, or this sweet pizza closet in my suite).

In this case, these hinges are on the unsecured side. I can easily drive the hinge pins out of the door and gain access to this closet. The two halves of the hinge will easily slide apart in this case.

Because I didn’t want to trespass, I did not verify if this was implemented securely. In order to have the hinge pins on the unsecured side, you can use “security pins”… These tiny devices will replace some of the hinge screws in the door or frame, and recess into the mating surface. In this way, the hinge halves will not slide among each other — increasing the security of this approach.

Here’s some on Amazon (these may not be the cheapest, I don’t know. It’s also not a referral link):

Missteps Physical Security Security

Misstep 3: Flow Freakin’ Way

Unprotected water control valve
Sweet Cage Decoration

From my trip to LA, I’ve seen several of these water control valves placed above ground. (Must be nice, in Chicago, these guys would turn into ice and destroy themselves).

An oddity is the choice of security — a wire mesh that stops folks from disabling the water. This could affect fire systems, but those usually have a standpipe or external outlet for sprinklers, but what this can mean is — when your coworkers are coming back from the company Chipotle outing, they can’t evacuate the sinister remnants effectively.

The cages are a minor obstacle, since these are quarter-turn ball valves, they only have to be rotated 90° in order to turn off (or on) flow.

Inserting a stick, pipe, or some other rigid instrument and biasing it against the wire cage would create plenty enough of a lever to force the valve shut.

Solution? Lock the valves like everybody else, except this water main, since it uses a hilariously deficient “warded Master Lock” that can be trivially bypassed in several ways (shimming, warded picks, keys that accommodate wards, etc)

Water main showing a Master Warded Lock
See the bottom of the chain between the valves
Missteps Physical Security Security

Misstep 2: Security-As-An-Annoyance

A locked door at a hotel pool where the gate allows easy access to the opposite handle.
So ez

I’m in Los Angeles, CA this week and my hotel has a pool. Like many hotel pools, they lock it down at a silly early hour. They also keep the area locked to ensure that the pool isn’t being abused by non-guests.

With several different shifts of hotel operators, and this hotel’s nature of having several outdoor buildings for rooms, it would be very difficult for a hotel employee to identify who is a guest and who isn’t.

While there isn’t anything of value behind this gate, it does demonstrate an oversight in design. My hands were only slightly too fat to fit next to the handle, to turn the “inside” handle and gain access. People with smaller hands, those who are clever enough to bend a wire coat hanger, and those who also really need to swim can bypass this sort of gate easily.

I’d argue that this isn’t a big deal here, since the gate is there to prove trespassing and deny liability if you didn’t belong there in the first place. Either way, an interesting conversation piece.

It should be noted that these types of lever handles are required by ADA standards (in the US) to enable people with advanced arthritis, or other physical ailments to open doors where they cannot grasp a knob. That is why replacing these with knobs is not a workable solution.

Missteps Physical Security Security

Misstep 1: A Chain is as strong as its weakest link

A Trek Hybrid for the low cost of a front tire

I wanted to start a new blog feature where I share occasional security missteps just sitting in public.

These bikes are not cheap, generally starting at $500 and climbing rapidly.

This bike is held in place by a typical U-bolt lock, but the front tire is held in by a quick connect near the bottom of the rim, through the spokes (meaning it takes no tools and only a flick of your finger to release the tire, and thus: the bike).

Say you wanted to save some additional funds and you carry a Leatherman? Cut a few spokes and ride off on it. Later, order a few replacements … Or if needed, a rim.

You can have the world’s strongest lock. It means nothing when the entire situation isn’t considered.