Manual combination locks are generally considered less secure than high-tech electronic or digital locks. Electronic locks are versatile and secure for a safe that will be accessed by several people. Different security codes can be assigned to different people, allowing you to trace who went into the safe and when. With electronic safes, it is also possible to pre-program the times frames when the safe can be accessed.
However, for a safe that will be accessed infrequently-like a private safe in a home-a good quality manual combination lock may be perfectly adequate. One clear plus for combination locks is that they are much cheaper than electronic or digital locks. Just be sure to purchase a combination lock that has a good rating by the global product compliance testing company Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL).
Vulnerability of Combination Locks
Bicycle locks are the most basic types of combination locks. They are also the least secure. The design is so vulnerable that the lock can be manipulated and opened without any knowledge of the combination. Padlock combination locks are harder to crack. Often used on school lockers, padlocks have a single dial that you turn first to the left, then to the right until you get to the last number. But these too have been cracked. Some padlock models by Master Lock had such a vulnerable design that pulling down the shaft and spinning the dial until it stops on a number could reveal the combination.
When you purchase a combination lock, it has a manufacturer-set trail combination. There are sources available that give away some manufacturers' trial combinations. The safe will be vulnerable if the owner does not re-set this trial combination. Some people write down the combination of their locks and store it near the safe-where a burglar can easily find it. Protecting the combination to your safe is very advisable.
Different Types of Safes
The lock you put on your safe is just one factor in many that must be considered when choosing a safe. What will you be storing? Do you need a safe that is fire proof? Humidity proof? Will you be storing documents? Jewelry?Generally, all safes can be divided into two categories: media safes, and security safes.
Media safes are designed to protect intellectual property from fire. These safes are made of thin layers of heat-insulating materials. They are not designed to protect against unwanted entry. Fire safes are appropriate for storing important paper documents, film, CD-ROMs etc. Different media can withstand different levels of heat before its data erased or destroyed. A safe with a Class-A rating from UL can withstand temperatures of 2000 degrees for several hours. A safe with a Class-B rating can withstand 1,850 degree heat for just 2 hours. A Class-C rated safe can withstand 1000 degree heat for only an hour. Security safes are designed to withstand break-ins. Generally, they are constructed out of reinforced steel and iron. The UL rates these safes on the length of time it takes to penetrate using tools such as picks and electric drills.
Security safes are designed to keep burglars out. But they are not fire proof. When exposed to heat or fire, the thick metal acts as an oven, essentially cooking the contents of the safe. These two categories of safes can be combined in any number of ways to suit your needs. For instance, a smaller fire-resistant media safe can be placed inside a security safe. Combination locks are cheap and easy to use, and may be exactly what you need to secure your valuable items.
All locks and safes have vulnerabilities. Making sure to buy a safe with a good UL rating, and knowledge of your safe's weak points will go a long way in ensuring your security.