Tuesday, September 12, 2006

An Apt Quote

My last post on this subject generated quite a lot of controversy. So I thought I'd share a bit of history that turned up during my research into the subject. Here is a famous quote by A. C. Hobbs, an American lock picker who forced lock makers to improve their designs by publicly breaking locks at the Great Exhibition of 1851.
A commercial, and in some respects a social doubt has been started within the last year or two, whether it is right to discuss so openly the security or insecurity of locks. Many well-meaning persons suppose that the discussion respecting the means for baffling the supposed safety of locks offers a premium for dishonesty, by showing others how to be dishonest. This is a fallacy. Rogues are very keen in their profession, and know already much more than we can teach them respecting their several kinds of roguery.

Rogues knew a good deal about lock-picking long before locksmiths discussed it among themselves, as they have lately done. If a lock, let it have been made in whatever country, or by whatever maker, is not so inviolable as it has hitherto been deemed to be, surely it is to the interest of honest persons to know this fact, because the dishonest are tolerably certain to apply the knowledge practically; and the spread of the knowledge is necessary to give fair play to those who might suffer by ignorance.

It cannot be too earnestly urged that an acquaintance with real facts will, in the end, be better for all parties. Some time ago, when the reading public was alarmed at being told how London milk is adulterated, timid persons deprecated the exposure, on the plea that it would give instructions in the art of adulterating milk; a vain fear, milkmen knew all about it before, whether they practiced it or not; and the exposure only taught purchasers the necessity of a little scrutiny and caution, leaving them to obey this necessity or not, as they pleased.

-- From A. C. Hobbs (Charles Tomlinson, ed.), Locks and Safes: The Construction of Locks. Published by Virtue & Co., London, 1853 (revised 1868).

1 comment:

mark said...

A C Hobbs demonstrated those lock vulnerabilities in a public exhibition. Not pointedly to persons intent on bypassing security systems - criminals at the time.

His audience was everybody. If he'd targetted criminals to publicise the flaw, he'd probably [and rightly] have spent some time at Her majestys' pleasure.

See the backlash he caused none the less [by his need to defend himself].