REAL FAKE LOCKS! Why Did I Build a Fake Lock? Low Budget Security Theater, MacGuyver Style

Maybe no explanation is needed for why I’d make something this weird, given that I’m the guy who built the ebike hamster pod (more on that in a future article). For those of you who nod slowly and think “Yes, of course he would do this”, there is no need to read on. The rest of you, keep reading.

Charging cables for electric cars, including portable ones you can carry with you in the trunk to charge from any regular 110 volt outlet, have a hole underneath the release button. This allows you to lock it in place once it is inserted in the car, so it cannot be removed by thieves or pranksters.

This is quite important as the charger cables go for around $250, making them a tempting target for thieves, and there still exists in the US some hostility against electric cars by right wing people who associate them with left wing politics. Hence trends like rolling coal, and gas vehicles deliberately parking in EV-only spaces.

So it is good sense to lock your charging cable, because there exist many people with the means and various motives to unplug you, or even steal your cable. The problem is, the other night I needed to charge someplace dodgy, and I had no lock. What I did have was the stuff needed to make a convincing fake lock.

It looks like a lock and serves the purpose of preventing charge plug removal, but does not actually need a key to open. It’s made using two bottle caps, a carabiner and rubber band for a spring-loaded type action that pulls the carabiner far enough into the body of the “lock” to complete the look.

This is a very cheap and simple example of security theater. That’s the practice of giving the impression of security measures which don’t actually exist, as a cheaper alternative to actually implementing those measures for real.

A good example of this would be fake security cameras. If crooks can’t tell the difference, they can’t take the risk that it’s a real camera. Thus, the fake camera achieves the same effect as a real one at a fraction of the cost.

Thieves also preferentially go after soft targets. If there are two bicycles parked next to one another, and one of them has a “GPS tracked” sticker on it but the other doesn’t, a thief who must work quickly will pass over the bike that may have a tracker onboard in favor of stealing the one that definitely doesn’t.

This is quite like the saying “To escape a bear you only need to run faster than the slowest person in the group”. If it looks, at a glance, as if there is a hefty padlock on the charging cable then probably that will be enough to convince a thief it isn’t worth their time.

Of course since that night I have gone out and bought a real lock, because the fake lock was only a quick and dirty placeholder measure for that night. But the principle holds true. Your belongings only need to appear harder to steal than somebody elses in order to be passed over.

That’s all for this time. I don’t do as many DIY posts lately, I thought this might be a fun return to that format. Let me know if you liked it and want to see more.

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