Competitor locks

YeboTech’s product is not entirely unique and there are a couple out there that can do electronic audited electronic access control in audited logs.

While we take our hats off to our competitors for some clever engineering, we think our product is better because it is easier to use and much, much cheaper. It is also technically better because it works faster, uses less power, and is arguably more secure.

What’s the trick?

You might be curious to know how YeboTech can produce a product that is ten times cheaper than existing products, and (as we claim) it works better! This is on the face of it sounds like a spurious marketing claim.

The secret is a new kind of clutch mechanism we use in our plug, unlike traditional locks which use a blocking mechanism.

What this means is that in a traditional lock, if you insert the wrong key you can’t turn it; there is a mechanism that blocks you from turning the plug and thereby extracting the lock’s bolt. Because a nefarious attacker is likely to use a lot of force when trying to open a lock, the blocking mechanism needs to be strong enough to withstand attack; in other words, big and heavy. This is not a good thing for an electronic lock, as the mechanical actuating mechanism has to move the blocking mechanism out of the way before the lock can be accessed, and the heavier the mechanism is the more power required to do so quickly. Because the lock’s operation is slow efforts have to be made to make the authentication fast, which means either compromising on the electronic security or using specialized and expensive cryptographic devices. Finally, because the blocking mechanism has to be very strong the parts need to be made of a strong material like metal, which are expensive to manufacture.

By contrast, the Yebo plug contains a clutch mechanism which only engages when an authorized key is inserted. The clutch mechanism only has to be strong enough to transmit the force required to open a lock, and in fact another trick allows the mechanism to work by moving hardly anything at all. Consequently, Yebo lock’s operation is blindingly fast, operating within 150ms of inserting the key; and 140ms of those are used by the electronics to do the encryption required for authentication, with only 10ms required to actuate the lock. Because the mechanism is so fast we can use cheap, off-the-shelf electronic parts and still have strong security. The mechanism also requires very little power, which is why a single AAA battery has enough power to open 50,000 locks. Finally – and this is not something a lock manufacturer would normally want to admit – all the complicated bits are made out of plastic for a penny a part. YeboTech is an unabashed user of plastic; even the key ‘blade’ is made of plastic! Only the best plastic, of course.

Details of YeboTech’s lock technology may be found in international patent application PCT/IB2006/003600. This patent has been filed in 11 jurisdictions.

What’s the catch?

The catch is that a Yebo lock’s behavior can be a little unexpected if your key is not authorized.

Normally if you insert an incorrect key into a lock it doesn’t turn, or doesn’t even fit into the keyhole. In Yebo locks however your key will always fit into the keyhole since all of them are exactly the same shape; and if your key is not authorized, your key will turn, but the lock just won’t open. This can be a bit confusing if you don’t know how the lock is supposed to work.

Most locksets have also been designed with a blocking type mechanism in mind. However, we have found that most kinds of lock can accommodate a Yebo plug with very little modification at all, and usually the result is simpler and uses fewer parts – see the OEM support page for materials describing how plugs may be integrated into conventional locksets and cylinders. We look forward to seeing how creative designers of locksets will take advantage of the Yebo plug’s unique clutch operation.

It’s more secure…?

We think so. Unlike other electronic locks, our actuator mechanism contains no moving metal components; this means it is entirely immune to external magnetic fields, a popular method of attacking electronic locks. It also incorporates special features to protect it from external shocks, vibration, and electrical attack. The operating mechanism is also sealed from the keyway, so one would have to drill to have even a hope of something like air jets or injected fluid to have any effect, and good luck with that by the way.

On the electronic front, a system supporting multiple encryption protocols is built in from the ground up. Our system is subjected to period external review by cryptographic experts. Currently our plug uses 64-bit encryption; the next one will support 96-bit encryption using a different algorithm. This avoids the danger of product stratification, which can leave an entire product line vulnerable to a single method of attack, and it enables us to upgrade security as technology improves.

It’s a near certainty that someone can hack our lock, and we’ve invited some people to try. The trick is to try and stay one step ahead.