Top 4 Characteristics of High-Security Locks

High security lock being tested

If you’ve ever shopped for residential or commercial locks then you’ve probably heard the term “high-security.” You might have even dismissed it as industry jargon or a marketing buzzword. But high-security locks actually earn that title with their superior performance in a number of important areas—making life easier for you and tougher for criminals.

To cut through the confusion, we’ve compiled a list of the biggest differences between standard and high-security locks. Hopefully you’ll see that “high security” is more than ad speak. It could be the difference between staying well protected and suffering a break-in.

1. Pick and Drill Resistant

One of the biggest weaknesses of standard locks is their vulnerability to picking and drilling. These products feature standard pin-and-tumbler locks, which are susceptible to “bumping”, a common form of lock picking where a special key is used to manipulate the lock pins into opening briefly.

Would-be thieves have a variety of tools and techniques at their disposal (bumper keys, for example), but most will quickly move on after encountering a roadblock.

Still, lock manufacturers always have to stay at least one step ahead.

Their solution? High-security locks with pick- and drill-resistant key cylinders. These products have hardened steel inserts, sidebars, rotating pins and other features that are specially designed to resist break-and-entering attempts such as bumping attacks.

Overcoming a high-security lock is so difficult that it’s deemed not worth the time and effort.

Although high-security locks aren’t impenetrable, they withstand manipulation and forced entry attempts much better than traditional locks. The label of “high security” means that the lock is able to resist an unauthorized entry attempt for a certain amount of time (standardized by testing bodies like ANSI and UL).

In other words, overcoming a high-security lock is so difficult that it’s deemed not worth the time and effort.

2. Heavy Duty Hardware

Certain environments demand extra protection, and not just from criminals. Areas subject to high traffic or tough physical conditions can see added strain placed on locks, so standard-grade hardware often won’t be up for the job.

Instead, look for heavy-duty architectural grade solutions. These locks are designed to maintain their superior level of security even under difficult conditions or extensive use.

Yale 5400LN High-Security Lever Lock

The Yale 5400LN Series heavy-duty cylindrical lockset with rugged design and Grade 1 security.

Among other things, they can be fire-rated, certified against windstorms and come with heavy-duty hardware such as stainless steel throws and heavy-gauge steel locking mechanisms to resist sawing and crowbar attacks.

3. Security Layering

Reaching a state of high security goes beyond physical measures like mechanical or electrical locks. It often means applying multiple layers of security, including access control, video surveillance, intrusion alarms and software.

It helps that many products available today offer a high level of compatibility

With proper planning and support, these components work together to protect even the most security sensitive environments.

It helps that many products available today offer a high level of compatibility, and retrofitting is easier and less expensive than ever before, especially with the growth of wireless solutions. That gives you more flexibility in how you build your security system.

But more importantly it means high security doesn’t necessarily have to mean high costs or high maintenance.

4. No Unauthorized Copying of Keys

A copied key can render even the most advanced locking system useless. That’s why manufacturers like Medeco have taken steps to prevent unauthorized duplication of keys.

Medeco’s key control system enables special restrictions so only approved service providers can copy a key. For an added layer of security, these keys come with unique angle cuts that require a special key cutting machine.

Medeco Rim and Mortise lock cylinder

Medeco® Rim and Mortise cylinders provide patented key control and UL437 Physical Security for drill and pick resistance.

Many high-security locks come with similar protections against unauthorized copying of keys. For commercial properties, which tend to have many more keys in circulation than residences, that provides extra peace of mind.

What Else to Look Out for?

High-security locks come in mechanical and electronic formats, with all kinds of locking mechanisms and features. If you’re not sure which product is right for your property, try checking specs for a more accurate comparison. Here are some of the most common in the field of high security locks:

  • ANSI lock grades range from 3 (on the less secure side) to 1 (the most secure). Look for a Grade 1 Certified lock if you want a high-security solution for your commercial or industrial property, especially if it has high traffic or security concerns. A Grade 2 lock offers high security for residences, but would only be appropriate for light needs in a commercial setting.
  • UL 437 is a rating from the Underwriters Laboratories that you’ll find on many high-security locks. It defines certain criteria for keyed locks in categories such as resistance to lock picking and drilling, durability and more.


Of course, you can also contact an expert for more advice. At ABC Security we have a wide selection of high-security locks from trusted manufacturers such as Medeco, Yale, Arrow and Sargent.

More importantly, we’ll help you find the right solution for your environment—whether it means tightening up security at home or protecting your facility against the most advanced physical security threats known today. Contact us to learn more.

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