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High Security: The Hirsch ScramblePad #Security

hirsch scramblepad patent filing

Stephen B. Hirsch had some great security ideas back in 1980 to solve an issues with push button locks:

  1. It’s very easy to “shoulder surf” to get the key positions pushed, by position or by sight
  2. Commonly used buttons wear more than unused numbers, leading to knowing which numbers compose a combination

Hirsch developed a lock that solved most problems common with previous push button locks:

  1. Numbers are not displayed until the lock is being used
  2. A limited field of view of each number using optics
  3. The numbers on the keypad are “scrambled”, they appear in different positions with each activation.
  4. It takes only a limited number of entries before it accepts no more attempts or sets off an alarm
  5. There is nice audio feedback on start, for each button press and for error notification

You start the combination entry process by pressing the Start button in the lower left. A scramble animation appears on the 10 positions shown in the picture below. Then the user enters a set combination of digits and presses the lower right blank key. If the combination is correct, the controller unlocks access and logs the access in a database. The use can be coupled with needing a card swipe card.

What were these things used for?

Both private and government installations used these types of control systems. This company describes using it in a nuclear facility for example. Given the cost, the facility would require a substantial security budget for installation and assess database maintenance.

Can I try this on the Internet?

Sure! Twitter user Matt Boldt coded this simulation in Javascript with available source code (MIT License). Thanks Matt!

Do you want your own?

You can find the keypads on eBay, but for a full system you need the 1, 2, or 8 position control units and programming software which is expensive. Hirsch systems are still sold commercially on security websites.

These devices are a lot less common now as they do not generally meet current federal standards for some types of use.

If you want to simulate this on your own device, you can look to use an LCD touchscreen with simulated buttons.

Thanks to a Twitter post by Cabel for sparking this look.

Are you interested in security systems? Let us know in the comments below.

 

 


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