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Thieves can now hack combination locks in 30 seconds

An expert lock cracker has created a 3D-printed machine that can open a rotary combination lock in less than a minute.

The Californian-based hacker, named Samy Kamkar, has also shared plans and code for his device online, enabling anyone to engage in some lock-cracking of their own.

Read more: Car thieves using $17 power amplifier to hack keyless entry system

After discovering a flaw with Master Lock combination locks, Kamkar decided to automate the cracking process with his own Combo Breaker device. It works using two different motors, an Arduino Nano microcontroller to run bespoke software and 3D printed parts to hold the lock in place. The total cost of all the parts listed comes to approximately $160, but depending on the crime, that could still be well worth it for any would-be thief.

Kamkar explains that the Combo Breaker is able to crack the combination for any Master Lock in about five minutes, but if you’ve already primed the lock by finding the first digit by hand, the Combo Breaker is able to complete its task in just 30 seconds.

Although, Kamkar only guarantees that his device works on the cheaper versions of the Master Lock range, owners of the company’s products are likely to be concerned. A 30 second cracking time would enable thieves to operate so quickly that the chances of catching them would be slim.

Kamkar has demonstrated the disruptive potential of technology before with a number of high-profile hacks. The Samy worm that he infected MySpace with saw him charged with computer hacking by US police.

Read more: Apple Watch security flaw provides easy target for thieves

However, it’s not just Kamkar who's showing up security firms. The industry as a whole must react more effectively to new technological developments. Earlier this year, law enforcement discovered a wireless signal booster that allowed criminals to unlock cars remotely.

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with IT Pro Portal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.