Vandal-resistant switches (also referred to as vandal-proof switches) are electrical switches designed to be installed in a location (or device) and application where they may be subject to abuse and attempts to damage them, as in the case of pedestrian crossing switches. Vandal-resistant switches located on devices that are outdoors must be able to withstand extreme temperatures, dust, rain, snow, and ice. Many vandal-resistant switches are intended to be operated by the general public, and must withstand heavy use and even abuse, such as attempts to damage the switch with metal tools. These switches must also resist dirt and moisture.
Tamper-resistant switches (or tamper-proof switches) are types of vandal-resistant switches which are not intended to be operated except by authorized users. They may control special functions, such as auditing of voting machines, operation of power tools or equipment, enabling of security alarm systems (e.g., arming and disarming), or restocking of vending machines. A very commonly seen tamper-resistant switch is the ignition switch in most motor vehicles.
Vandal-resistant switches are usually protected by the use of robust materials, such as thick stainless steel or heavy-duty plastics. Some tamper-resistant switches are also protected against operation by using other approaches, such as hiding the switches behind a locked or screwed-down door-covered panel, or by requiring a key or passcode before the switch will operate the device. One widely used example of a tamper-proof switch is the ignition system of a standard car; to prevent strangers from joyriding in the car or stealing it, car ignition systems require a key to start the engine.