Recreational lock-pickers open up about their craft
Once a fortnight members of Dublin hackerspace Tog meet to chat and pick locks
“Lock-picking is an art,” he says sadly. “Criminals don’t really go in for it any more.”
After a short debate about which lock is the easiest to pick, Mitchell shows me how to use the “torsion tool” to get traction on a small padlock while I wield a “snake” to jimmy the internal pins.
Take your pick
“There’s a bit of a rush when you pop your first lock,” he says, and he’s right. After I pick my first, I experience a small surge of triumph. “When you show people how easy some locks are to pick, a lot go, ‘Oh God, I’m using one of those on my bike!’” says Felle.
They discuss which locks are most difficult to open. “This is a very good German lock,” says Mitchell, handing me an involved-looking brass contraption. “I haven’t got into it yet.”
Of course, lock-picking is only one strand of what they do at Tog. They host talks about software and digital security. They run an open source software night and craft night.
“Nowadays ‘hacking’ often just means ‘making’,” says Mitchell as he points out various projects members are working on. There’s an automated sewing machine that once worked on punch cards currently being redesigned in ways I don’t fully understand. There’s an old-fashioned arcade games console newly connected to a PC. There’s a 3D printer. There’s a drone.
“Seán, show Patrick your drone,” says Mitchell and Nicholls unveils a strange plastic contraption with four helicopter blades. Using an iPad he flies it treacherously around the room filming everything it passes. We duck nervously before it careens into the wall and falls to the ground with a crash.
“Are you sure you’re not trainee supervillains?” I ask.
“If we were, would we tell you?” says Nicholls.
Love’s labour locked
In reality the lock-picking people of Tog use their powers for good, not evil. They’re thinking of asking Dublin City Council for permission to pick the “love locks” lovelorn teens have padlocked to the Ha’penny Bridge. “We stopped to look at them to see how easy it would be,” says Mitchell. “But we were attracting attention so we moved on. We wouldn’t want people to think we were up to anything.”