In Russian we have a phrase "honest people's lock" (замок от честных людей), which means a security measure which can be easily bypassed by a resolute and skillful perpetrator but still serves as a protection from an amateur or random person willing to take a chance.

Examples of such a security measure would be:

  • Three-digit rotary lock on your suitcase or bicycle chain lock
  • Anti-theft lug nuts of your car's wheel
  • Disabling copy-paste or a right click on a website as an anti-copyright infringement measure

, etc.

Is there such a phrase or word in English?

I'm using a combination bike chain lock. Of course it's only a ____, but you don't have to carry you key around with you and it still keeps kids from stealing your bike.

  • 3
    More generally, 'disincentive' or 'token measure'. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 25 '17 at 14:10
  • Whoever is running around downvoting answers w/o providing comments, please come back and explain the reasons for your displeasure – Carl Witthoft Aug 25 '17 at 19:03

A phrase that's spreading from its original applications in travel and online security is security theatre (the American spelling theater may be more common). The more obvious the so-called deterrent is, and the more onerous for the honest, the more applicable this phrase becomes.

  • Great suggestion, though there is the implication of complete ineffectiveness or even malfeasance that the original phrase does not have. For more information: privacysos.org/security_theater – Val Aug 25 '17 at 20:01
  • @Val that sounds like a perfect fit to the third example. Slightly less so for the second (and the first in the bike example, where it buys you a few seconds). In the first example, again it's perfect, if it actually makes the threat worse by drawing attention to the fact that theres something of value in the suitcase. – Chris H Aug 25 '17 at 20:39
  • The examples from Schneier have an intent of obfuscation, of hiding the real threat by being showy in addressing less likely or damaging threats. That's where the "theater" aspect comes in though I see your point especially in regards to the briefcase. It's been so long since I've seen one of those, I forgot how they did convey that sense of the owner having something important. – Val Aug 28 '17 at 15:56

Perhaps a pro-forma lock (MWD)

made or carried out in a perfunctory manner or as a formality


I believe the phrase you are looking for is 'a first-line measure'. (Correspondingly, someone seeking to break through such a barrier would find that their 'first line of attack' would end in failure.)


For door locks in residences, such as bathrooms or children's bedrooms, they're called "privacy locks". This indicates that they are designed to be easily opened from the outside in case of emergency.

Privacy door locks are generally used on bedrooms, bathroom, or doors where privacy is desired, but you don't necessarily need the security and expense of a keyed lock. http://www.directdoorhardware.com/privacy_lock_types.htm

protected by MetaEd Aug 25 '17 at 14:47

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