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5/08/2009 – Carry-On Baggage Locks : Why Combination Locks Are The Key To Security
Travellers have an inherent worry about the security of their items. On the road replacing even the smallest items can be irritating.
Travellers give significant thought to their backpack, briefcase. MP3 player, headsets and other items. Why don’t travellers give their locks a second thought? Really does it matter if your lock is a combination lock or a key lock? In fact, it does!
When I travel I keep locks on all my bags. Even though I almost only travel with carry-on baggage, each and every bag has multiple locks. Each zipper can be secured, which is ideal for putting my bag down for a moment, walking through an airport, walking through a city, or securing PacSafe Bag Protector. The point of locking mu carry-on bags is simply to keep unwanted hands out of my bag, deter thieves and prevent my bags from becoming opened without me consciously opening my bags.
When you choose your locks, even working within the requirements of the TSA Sentry Approved Lock requirements, not all locks are created equal. While some locks are stronger than others, that is not what I am addressing. What I am addressing is the actual security and practicality of using one type of lock over another.
Specially, this post discusses the seemingly mundane topic of choosing a combination lock instead of a key lock.
Why should every traveller choose combination lock rather than a key lock? For starters, key locks are prone to two significant security concerns.
The first security concern with key locks is key locks are somewhat easily accessible to professional thieves. Most skilled thieves do not need to pick a lock, or even cut a lock. If thieves are not picking or cutting a lock, how are they opening your lock? With a key-ring full of keys.
Open a package of most baggage locks; you’ll get two or three locks with only two sets of keys. Why would a package of three locks contain only two sets of keys? Because one key opens all three locks. Keys for many consumer locks are not unique; they will open thousands of locks. A skilled airport thief can quickly size up the type of lock on your bag and know which series of potential keys will open the lock.
The second security concern with using key locks is the potential for losing the keys to your lock. Should you lose your keys in transit, you’ll be unable to quickly and easily access your bags when you need to. Additionally, should you break a key off in your lock (and yes, I have heard of this happening more often than you might imagine) your lock will need to cut off. While getting a lock cut off isn’t so hard, it is not that easy when you’re standing in the airport, at the gate, awaiting an international flight to board and your boarding pass and passport are in your bag.
Combination locks offer not only more security, but also considerably more peace-of-mind.
The obvious advantage to a combination lock is that the combination is only known to you and those you’ve told. Given that thieves cannot easily walk through an airport with a lock cutter, and the sound of a battery powered Dremel Tool sawing your lock off next to your head will wake you up, they’ll tend to move on to an easier target.
In addition to slightly more security with the use of combination locks, you cannot lose the combination to your locks. Combination baggage locks tend allow the user to set their own combination. All of my locks have the same combination, this way no matter what lock I snatch out of my drawer the combination is always the same.
Yes, TSA Approved Sentry Locks can all be opened with a set of keys that should only be available to TSA baggage screeners. Yes, these keys are available to those who are not TSA screeners. This does defeat the purpose of securing your bag, however a lock is an effective deterrent. A combination lock is a more effective deterrent.
Just remember that if a skilled professional thief really wants the contents of your bag, they may be hard to defeat. Rather than defeat a determined thief it is always better to try and reduce your chances of becoming a target and be aware of your surroundings.