Are Digital Online House Keys a Security Risk?


In a recent Wired article the journalist broke into his neighbors house. It kinda went something like this; I'm a lazy but doggone good burglar. You see, I hate using elbow grease, like a crowbar. I'm clueless about picking locks. So I use the victim's iPhone.

The journo preyed on his neighbor's laziness because he knew that when he visited, he'd pitch his keys to spare him from having to walk down a few flights to let him into his flat.

At the top he returned the keys and shot the breeze. Before he left he told him he'd be back to enter his home uninvited. Within an hour he had the key to his front door.

That's because on the staircase the Journo spent only seconds scanning his keys with special software. Using the KeyMe app (which is intended for convenient and honest key copying), he duplicated his buddy's keys at a KeyMe kiosk, based on the scan he took. Next morning he barged into his neighbor's home while he was there.

KeysDuplicated and Keysave are similar applications, designed to make key copying easier, and to eliminate lost keys and lockouts.

But it is certainly feasible criminals will always find a way to use such a nifty invention for criminal purposes. It takes less than 30 seconds for a crook to scan a coworker's keys left on a desk, or a stranger's sitting on a café table while they're in the john.

KeyMe's website says "only you can scan your keys." How could the kiosk know who actually scanned the keys? Keys can also be scanned while on the keychain, despite what the site says. The site says keys must be scanned on both sides and against a white background. The journo's staircase scan proved otherwise.

KeyMe's CEO and founder, Greg Marsh, explains that digital reproduction of keys leaves a digital trail, including kiosk fingerprint scanners.

The journo goes on to point out if he had burgled his neighbor's place without warning him and while he wasn't there and wore gloves, the fingerprint scanners would be useless. If the victim suspected the burglar KeyMe'd his keys, the KeyMe app would show who last copied his keys.

His neighbor had never heard of KeyMe. Who suspects a key-duplicating smartphone app upon coming home to a ransacked house?

Marsh, the CEO is working on increasing publicity for KeyMe. He also stresses the importance of guarding keys as much as you would your bank password.

The key to protecting your keys is to never let them be visible to anyone else.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to discussingburglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

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