Do You Know Where Your Keys Are? New Apps Let Thieves Duplicate Keys in Second


keys2When was the last time you left your keys out in the open? On your desk, while you went to a meeting? On your neighbor’s table while you ran to the bathroom? You may have given someone an all-access pass around your personal security.

Getting locked out of your car or house is such a pain that several services have popped up to combat the problem. A new app called KeyMe allows users to take pictures of their keys with their smartphones and have duplicates mailed to their house. If that’s not quick enough, three kiosks scattered in Manhattan will manufacture new keys on the spot. KeysDuplicated in San Fransisco offers a similar service.

This seems like a great idea, until you realize that anyone with a camera and a few seconds alone with your keys could use the service too.

KeysDuplicated tracks the keys duplicated with your credit card and KeyMe requires a verified, email-based account, but both openly admit that they don’t keep information connecting your key orders to your personal address. This is supposed to ensure that the service itself can’t take advantage of the uploaded scans, but it also means there’s no way to prove the legitimacy of key-printing requests.

This means that any valet with your car keys, retail employee with a store key, and morally questionable friend borrowing an apartment key could cash in on your moment of carelessness. Both services recommend taking good care of your keys as a best practice, but it doesn’t change the fact that anyone can become a master thief with nothing more than a camera-ready smartphone.

KeyMe’s CEO Greg Marsh points out that their tracking systems are still less convenient for thieves than just making a clay imprint and taking it to a locksmith, since their services track specific users. However, tracking a thief through KeyMe would require the burgled party to have awareness of the fairly new app, which is unlikely. Even if they were, KeyMe’s CEO admits they’d have to be cautious about releasing information to the police.

“If these apps work the way they’re supposed to, I can take a picture of anyone’s key and have it mailed to their house. From the sounds of it, there aren’t actually any security checks to verify if I am the homeowner or not. Locks are mechanical, why would I rely on electronics for a mechanical based device. A locksmith is involved in your security, we ensure everything works properly – with an app there isn’t actually a person there to verify if this key works or not” said Neil Brunskill – Owner Operator of Texas Safe Secure.

Lock hackers have been able to duplicate keys from even poor quality photos for years, but the new services don’t require any technical knowledge whatsoever. Until regulators find a way to make these new services safer, keep a close eye on your keys.

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