News Your Gun Safe Might Not Be Safe: Liberty Safe Surrenders Access Code To FBI David Lane September 7, 2023 5 Comments, Join the Conversation Do you own things you want to keep safe? Maybe guns, valuables, or important documents? If so, there is a good chance you own a safe to keep those items in. You might also believe you are the only one that has access to the safe. Sadly, you might be wrong. For charges related to the January 6th attack on the United States Capitol Building, the FBI obtained warrants to arrest and search Arkansas resident Nathan Hughes's person and property. On August 30th, Liberty Safe was contacted by the FBI and requested that Liberty Safe provide the FBI with access codes needed to complete their search of Hughes’s property. Liberty Safe complied. The codes were provided, and the FBI gained access to the Liberty Safes in question. Hughes's charges are irrelevant. What is deeply concerning is Liberty Safe’s willingness to assist the FBI in accessing his safe. While the FBI seems to have had full right by law to search his safe because it had a valid warrant, the actual act of doing so is on them. The choice of cooperation in accessing the safe should be held only by Hughes. Instead, Liberty Safe provided access codes the public didn’t even know existed. To be clear, Liberty was not the target of the warrant or of a subpoena. From what is known, the company was not legally obligated to provide the FBI with the ordered code. It did so merely at the request of the FBI and because the agency provided a copy of the warrant for Mr. Hughes. Liberty Safe's first statement on the matter ARE BACKDOOR CODES STANDARD? RECOIL did some digging and talked to a number of gun-safe manufacturers that produce models with digital locks. The first to respond was SecureIt, who said: “It Is SecureIt’s belief and protocol, that the protection of personal property and 2nd Amendment rights of American citizens are paramount. Our full line of fast access modular safes are not built with any override system, giving our customers full control.” Hornady is also on record, saying that its systems do not have backdoor codes. Once the code is reset by the owner that is the only code. On top of that, Old Glory Gun Safes, Cannon, and Vaultek have also confirmed they do not have access codes or backdoors into your safe. Thanks to one of our readers, we were made aware that Winchester Safes has a code recovery program. We've reached out to Winchester for additional information but have not heard back at time of writing. According to their website, if you provide sufficient proof of ownership, the company will provide an owner with a recovery access code to their safe. This could mean it has backdoor access to all of their safes, but is not yet confirmed. Winchester's policy about sharing codes with law enforcement is also not known. THE RESULTS ARE THE SAME We are not lawyers, and this is not legal advice. As we understand it, Liberty Safe didn’t break any laws. Technically speaking, the results would have been the same if the FBI gained access to the safe with or without Liberty’s help. This wasn’t the first safe the FBI has come across, and it won’t be the last. The agency is very good at getting access to whatever it needs access to. If the owner had cooperated and provided the code that could be used as evidence the owner had knowledge of what was inside the safe and had access to it. Generally speaking, your defense attorney wouldn’t recommend giving that to the police. However, if the owner didn’t comply, then the FBI would have broken in anyway. It can be argued and is being argued online that Liberty Safe providing the code saved the owner the cost of a new safe. If the idea of your safe company providing an access code to the federal government to save you from incriminating yourself or having your safe damaged is comforting to you, then you know who to buy from. It’s A Feature, Not A Bug In the interest of balanced reporting, it’s fair to say Liberty having backdoor access to your safe does provide a safety net in the event that you lose or forget your own code. Liberty Safe has a process to recover access to a safe involving filling out a form, having it notarized and providing ownership verification. According to Liberty, some 4,000 customers per year take advantage of this program. However, this inherently weakens the system. Several years ago, Apple was asked and later ordered to provide access to cell phones owned by terrorists. Apple refused because backdoor access didn’t exist. The FBI was demanding that Apple create the backdoor so that the FBI could access the phones. Apple refused. Primarily, this refusal was because doing so would create a backdoor on every iPhone, and this would, by its very nature, greatly diminish the security of the phones. Any access point to a system is a security risk and weakens the system as a whole. From your home to your phone, and your safe. REPLACE YOUR SAFE’S DIGITAL LOCK If you have a safe that uses a digital lock and the company that made it is a bit too free and easy with the access codes, it is possible to fix that problem. Replace the keypad. While your mileage may vary depending on your pad and safe, it is generally pretty easy to hit Amazon and get a new keypad. That, plus a YouTube video, should have you well on your way to peace of mind. If you’re not the DIY type a local locksmith can help. LIBERTY SAFE SECOND STATEMENT As one might expect, the backlash against Liberty has been immediate and intense. On Wednesday evening, Liberty released a second statement on the matter. Bottom line, the company is changing its policy so it will only cooperate with law enforcement if Liberty is served with a court order to do so. It is also redesigning its access code program so that customers have the ability to opt-out. Current customers can request their override code be destroyed, and in the near future, new customers can request the same when they order their safe. BEST GUN SAFES UPDATE A little over a year ago, we published our guide to the best gun safes you can buy. In it, Liberty Safe is recommended. In light of these events, we are changing that recommendation and removing them from our guide. While Liberty Safe has been a long-standing brand that many in the firearms community have bought and recommended, the obvious security risk it presents is unacceptable. The opt-out program is a step in the right direction to correcting its mistakes, but it isn’t enough. We will revisit the guide next year, but for now, we’re taking Liberty off the list. 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