A lock that relies on a code or combination is only as good as the person in charge of setting and remembering it. You don’t want to make the maintenance of your combination a hassle, but you also don’t want to defeat the purpose of using one.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing and using these types of locks:
Digital vs. Mechanical
There are several similarities between these two types of locks. First, both should be rated “high security” by Underwriter’s Laboratory. If the lock you are considering isn’t, it’s time to look elsewhere. Both rely on a set of numbers for the combination (more on this ahead) and they’re equally effective at providing protection for valuables. Changing the combination of a mechanical lock, a set of three numbers, generally requires a locksmith whereas the owner of a digital lock, with a six digit combination, can change the combination on their own and is expected to as soon as they receive their safe. This ability to change the combination independently gives the user the ability to choose a sequence that is easy to remember and makes it more likely that the numbers will change from time to time (providing an additional layer of security). Batteries are needed to keep an electronic lock in working order, they typically need to be changed annually.
Balance Between Easy-to-Memorize and Hard-to-Crack
Don’t choose a set of numbers that’s too easy for a would-be thief to guess. Sequential number series (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), multiples (0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0 or 5, 4, 5, 4, 5, 4) or personal dates (birth dates, wedding dates, or anything that’s readily available to the public) are all poor choices. At the same time, codes shouldn’t be so complicated that they are easily forgotten every time valuables need to be accessed.
Create a Pneumonic Device
It’s easier to member a sentence or concept than it is to remember a random group of numbers. For example, if using a traditional 3-number combination lock, you can create a set from the number of words in a favorite band’s name, the number of words in the title of a favorite song, and the year the song was released. If using a digital lock, pick a memorable sentence (“My Favorite Cheese Is Brie”), take the first letter in each word, and then choose the corresponding digit on the number pad.
Keep a Copy of the Combination in a Safe Place
It’s easy to forget information that isn’t used every day, even if that information is highly important. There’s also the chance that a person other than the owner might need to access the safe at some point. A “cheat sheet” shouldn’t be easy to access or find; a safe-deposit box or a special website such as KeePass or PasswordSafe can provide needed security.
Don’t use the Same Codes in Different Places
If someone does manage to discover how to gain entry into the safe minimizing the potential damage is crucial. Using identical security information for various purposes (such as accessing a bank account or PIN number) opens up the risk of extensive repercussions.
Change the Combination on a Regular Basis
It’s a hassle to have to go through the process of coming up with a new number and updating a cheat sheet, but it’s the only way to make sure that valuables are truly secured. A combination doesn’t need to be changed quite as often as an internet password, but try to do so at least once a year. Always pick a new combination if there is reason to believe the information has been compromised.
Memory-based locks often fail not because of the mechanisms themselves, but because of human error. Make sure that locks do the jobs they’re meant to do by following the rules when it comes to choosing and using safe combinations.
What type of number set has worked best for you? Let us know in the comment section below.