As long as humans have had valuables, there have been technologies and methods to protect those valuables from people who try to steal them.
Safes were designed to protect valuables from theft and fire. The standard safe design is a tightly sealed metal box with a lockable door that can be opened with the use of a key or numerical code. Safes can be small, such as home, office and hotel safes, or the size of rooms, such as bank vaults.
Though safes are designed to safeguard their valuable contents against extreme force, any safe has a weakness, as there needs to be a way for a locksmith or other authority to unlock the safe if the lock malfunctions or the safe's owner loses the key or forgets the code. The in-built weakness of safes has given rise to thieves who specialize in safecracking.
Just as locksmiths do, safecrackers develop tools and methods to thwart locking mechanisms. By determining the type of lock, as well as how many lock wheels and contact points they need to line up, safecrackers can deduce the number combination needed. They also use particular drills and sight scopes to see inside the safe, which can give them visual access to the locking mechanism.
Beyond the question of legality, what distinguishes safecracking from locksmithing is that safecrackers must work fast; they need to open the safe and flee the scene of the crime before their presence near the safe arouses suspicion.