LABINSIGHT: discovering Security's laboratory

(Pubbl. 09/12/2022)
The fourth stop in Labinsight took us to the Security laboratory, where we witnessed tests requiring great physical strength and skill. The whole thing occurred in a setting that sometimes felt like a movie set.

Q: Hi Daniele, the prestigious ESSA Leadership Award was recently presented to your predecessor, Roberto Porta, for his essential contribution to developing the burglar-proofing sector. On this very occasion, it was reiterated that Istituto Giordano is currently the European reference laboratory for burglary resistance testing of products. So tell us something about your profession.

A: I have been in charge of the Security laboratory for the past few years, operating at the Gatteo site. Every day I coordinate a team of experienced “burglars” who, after lengthy and special training, simulate break-in attacks on security devices. The purpose of burglar tests is to classify products according to their degree of resistance, as defined by the relevant product standard.
Specifically, if a manufacturer wishes to market its product in the European market, it relies on our expertise to verify that it meets European regulatory requirements.

For over 20 years, we have been the international reference laboratory for testing activities - the only one in Italy - and we collaborate with the leading European certification body for safety products, “ECB-S”, based in Germany.

Finally, in addition to the laboratory activities, I represent Italy during European meetings to develop relevant regulations.

Q: Browsing through the laboratory information on the Istituto Giordano website, we saw that the section carries out various tests on different types of products: can you tell us which ones?

A: In our laboratory, we perform burglary resistance tests on storage media such as safes, ATMs, security cabinets and armoured rooms and on building elements such as armoured doors, windows, grates and shutters.

Q: Of those mentioned, do you have any anecdotes to share? 
A: We are often commissioned to carry out on-site tests at the vaults of central banking institutions to characterise their security status: a few years ago, it took us two working days between the alternating use of a jackhammer and cutting torch to create an opening in the chamber wall. Or another time, at our workshop, we opened, in seconds, a safe, which was considered very strong by the manufacturer, through a single drill hole.
INCENDIO TETTI CEN_TS 1187_T2Prove reazione al fuoco - UNI9174SBI_EN13823
Fig. 1 Representative panel of a vault wallFig. 2 Study of attack strategyFig.3 Breaker attack

Q: What are the timeframes for developing a proof? And what do tests on a safe, for example, consist of?
A: Testing times depend on the type of product. For example, completing the tests on a safe with the lowest security level takes about three working days; on a medium level, it takes about twice as long. To these times, all the studies of attack strategies must be added to be applied during the various trials.
Tests on a safe fall into two categories:
  • those of partial access which, through the creation of a hole in one wall of the product (about 125 cm2), allow a hand to pass inwards for the removal of goods;
  • those of total access that allow access to the total internal volume of the safe by removing an entire wall or opening the door.
 In addition to these tests, anchorage resistance tests, i.e. the tearing of the ATM safe from its housing through a 50,000 or 100,000 kg tensile force, and explosion resistance tests with a solid explosive or oxyacetylene gas mixture, are also performed. Lately, these tests have been in high demand in the market as such attacks are the most frequent in recent times.
INCENDIO TETTI CEN_TS 1187_T2Prove reazione al fuoco - UNI9174SBI_EN13823
Fig.4 Breaker attackFig. 5 Coupling with cutting torchFig.6 Coupling with a thermal lance

A: The importance of these tests is mainly due to market demand: it is common for end-users to demand “tested and approved” product security to increase their confidence in keeping goods inside. But in addition to private customers, all banking institutions also set minimum requirements for the burglar resistance of the products to be installed inside the various branches.
One last important note: the various grades or levels of safety obtained in the laboratory are all relative and serve to compare different products in the same category; they are, therefore, not absolute. The resistance times of the products in the laboratory cannot be compared with the real burglary resistance, as the operating conditions are quite different.
Finally, we point out that there can be no such thing as an inviolable product (in the field of break-in security).
Watch the video and follow the progress of the tests and the section manager's in-depth discussion.

For more details on the tests, we can perform See the special page