Opinion By Dave Goetzinger
USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- I recently found that one of the most popular lock pickers online reviewed a handgun safe that I hadn’t looked at. I had a knee-jerk reaction. “I am Handgun Safe Research! No unnecessary reviews of safes!” Then, after I calmed myself, I watched the video. The item in question was the First Alert Portable Pistol Safe, the reviewer was Bosnian Bill.
Bosnian Bill has a YouTube channel and a website called LockLab. His content targets hobbyist lock pickers, as well as hard-core competitive lock pickers, and people just trying to avoid the worst locks on the market. When he tests a lock that gives him a decent fight, he declares it good. When a lock offers no fight, he declares it crap. Many of his videos end with the words, “Stay safe, stay legal, and stay way from [fill in the blank].” With over 400,000 YouTube subscribers as of this writing, Bill qualifies as an influencer.
How then do I convey my horror at his inept review and enthusiastic endorsement of the First Alert Portable Pistol Safe? In his video, Bill goes on at length about the safe’s quality of construction, its aesthetic appeal, and its economic price point. Yet, aside from mentioning that the lock installed on it could be better, he fails to identify the safe’s most critical security problem.
Here’s what I found: The onboard programming for this device will allow one to enter random successive keystrokes and will continue waiting for the correct sequence. Regardless of which keys have been pressed in advance of the correct sequence, the system will recognize when the correct access code has been entered, and the safe will open. On average, I found that I could enter 20 keystrokes before the system locked me out and the circuitry became unresponsive for four minutes.
If an electronic handgun safe is designed properly, it will lock up after a few incorrect attempts to open it. But the First Alert Portable Pistol Safe will allow one to hammer into the keypad a good 20 random key strokes in rapid succession. A string of 20 random key strokes, from 1 to 4, equals 13 possible 8-digit codes, 14 possible 7-digit codes, 15 possible 6-digit codes, 16 possible 5-digit codes, and 17 possible 4-digit codes. That’s a total of 75 different combinations entered in one string of keystrokes.
Why should this concern anybody? Have you ever stopped to consider how many children’s toys are designed to encourage little kids to press buttons? Manufacturers of toys seem almost intent on preparing little ones for a life of interacting with digital gadgets. For many kids, everything with buttons is a toy.
I could go about the other problems with Bill’s review, misidentifying the type of locking mechanism inside the safe and so on, but what I want to point out is the danger of being an influencer. Bosnian Bill endorsed the product. Because of this, a certain number of people out there will buy the thing believing they’ve made a good investment. If I were an influencer, I would motivate my audience to flood the Consumer Product Safety Commission with demands for a product recall.
People online with massive numbers of followers are called influencers because people take their opinions on all matters to be important and informed. The danger to the influencer is that he may start to believe his opinions on everything actually matter. In reality, his opinions are just as likely to be as misinformed and wrong as the opinions of most every influencer cluttering social-media platforms. The influencer simply has a louder voice, not always a sensible one.
About Dave Goetzinger
I began while writing a piece of investigative journalism titled “Safe Cracking Is Too Easy,” published in the September 2015, issue of American Shooting Journal. The piece looked at defectively designed handgun safes, and was first posted online at ASJ on July 21, 2015, under the title “It’s Too Easy To Crack Your Gun Safe.”
About Handgun Safe Research
This site exposes the design defects and security vulnerabilities of popular handgun safes. Visit: www.handgunsaferesearch.com