New software developed by scientists at UC San Diego allows anyone to make duplicate keys from a single photograph. Keys can be cloned from any type of photograph, like a cell phone’s camera, and even from pictures taken over distances of hundreds of feet away. The pictures are scanned into a computer, and the software (called Sneakey) detects the exact contours of the key to create a duplicate, no matter the angle or distance at which the photos were taken.
This actually doesn’t really surprise me. I’ve been interested in bump keys and lockpicking for a long time, and a guy I once worked with showed me his method of copying a key just by looking at it. All he needs is a key blank and a hand-file. It’s just a matter of understanding that there are only a few different settings for each pin in a lock, and each bump on a key represents one of those settings. The software does the same thing, although with much greater accuracy.
In one demonstration of the software, researchers managed to copy a key sitting on a table from a picture taken from the roof of a building 200ft away.
The researchers who developed the software have pledged not to release the code, but they did say that it wouldn’t be hard for some tech savvy bad guys to develop similar software. Stefan Savage, the UCSD computer science professor who led the research, says that you should treat your keys like a credit card, and “keep it in your pocket unless you need to use it.”
Photography technology is growing by leaps and bounds, right now, it’s not implausible to think the US government has satellites capable of reading license plates. Automotive key technology will undoubtedly grow with these other technologies. We already have keys with computer chips in them and other systems built in to defeat thieves. Hopefully one day we won’t need actual metal keys at all.
(via UC San Diego)