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Duplicating Your Housekeys, From a Distance 287

Posted by timothy
from the keep-your-key-up-your-sleeve dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes "Some clever computer scientists at UC San Diego (UCSD) have developed a software that can perform key duplication with just a picture of the key — taken from up to 200 feet. One of the researchers said 'we built our key duplication software system to show people that their keys are not inherently secret.' He added that on sites like Flickr, you can find many photos of people's keys that can be used to easily make duplicates. Apparently, some people are blurring 'numbers on their credit cards and driver's licenses before putting those photos on-line,' but not their keys. This software project is quite interesting, but don't be too afraid. I don't think that many of you put a photo of their keys online — with their addresses." I wonder when I'll be able to order more ordinary duplicate keys by emailing in a couple of photos.
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Duplicating Your Housekeys, From a Distance

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  • wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by EncryptedSoldier (1278816) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @01:53PM (#25573457)
    looks like hiding your key in that rock was a good idea after all :)
  • by db32 (862117) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @01:55PM (#25573495) Journal
    It seems to me that the number of incidences where this could possibly be an issue is astronomically slim. Need picture of key, need to know where the key goes, and need the method of duplicating key with picture accurately enough to be of use. Then there has to be a pretty impresive reason why any of the other less complicated and faster ways of breaking in wouldn't be useful.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Reece400 (584378)

      I'm sure a stalker could get get all except for 'method of duplicating key with picture accurately enough to be of use' without much work, now if the they happen to be reading slashdot today...

    • by JohnnyLocust (855742) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @02:18PM (#25573829) Homepage
      There's a story from 2005 about a locksmith who made a copy of a key from an x-ray of some poor guy who somehow swallowed his key:

      http://www.boingboing.net/2005/06/25/locksmith-makes-key-.html
      • I had a car key that snapped in half in my hand once. The locksmith who showed up looked at the two pieces of the key, wrote down a series of numbers indicating the pin depth, and then hand-ground a key from those numbers using the grinder wheel in his van.

        Not as cool sounding as using an X-Ray, but the exact same principle. From sight of the key, he made a new key.

    • by zippthorne (748122) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @02:19PM (#25573849) Journal

      Not quite. Depending on the key, of course, all you need to do is get the code and figure out the style. Then you could get replacements sent to you from the manufacturer.

      In fact, some keys (I'm talking to you, cheap schlage locks) print the key code ON THE KEY, so you wouldn't even need to do any kind of fitting if the photo happened to be of the right side.

      But, of course, why bother having a particularly secure lock, when your all-metal steel-bolted door is right next to a 6 foot plate-glass bay window?

      • by JayAitch (1277640) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @02:35PM (#25574083)

        But, of course, why bother having a particularly secure lock, when your all-metal steel-bolted door is right next to a 6 foot plate-glass bay window?

        For some new houses use a utility knife cut thru the vinyl siding, foam sheeting, and kick thru the drywall for easy access.

        • by John Hasler (414242) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @02:47PM (#25574257) Homepage

          Variations on that method would work on most frame houses built during the last fifty years but burglars still attack doors and windows. This, of course, is because most are remarkably stupid (intelligent criminals go into politics).

    • by zappepcs (820751) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @02:21PM (#25573863) Journal

      How much more wrong could you be? Got an enemy? Drink in the same bars? Got a camera phone? ... is the idea sinking in?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by db32 (862117)
        Because breaking in in the hundreds of other ways or just kicking my ass in the parking lot is FAR easier than going through all of that rigamarole. My point is this is probably the most difficult and time consuming method to achieve the goal with minimal benefit. That goes along the same lines of saying that gun control laws stop murder. If the criminal is going to commit murder with the gun, do you think it really matters to him that he is breaking the law by owning the gun?
        • by zappepcs (820751)

          Yes, but we're talking about someone that might rather like to take your new tv, or perhaps pour a bit of water inside it and not get caught.

        • by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot@pitabre ... org minus distro> on Thursday October 30, 2008 @03:56PM (#25575209) Homepage

          It's a lot easier to steal shit if no one has any idea you were there in the first place.

          Neighbor: "db32's on vacation... what are you doing here?"
          Thief: "Oh, he gave me a key to watch the house, see?"
          Neighbor: "Oh, alright then."

          Thief proceeds to park in the garage, load up car with everything, and leave, with days (or weeks) of lead time to unload stolen goods.

          It's not a bad idea to keep your keys from being photographed. People will use a much more difficult way of breaking in if it gives them a better chance of not getting caught.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by QRDeNameland (873957)
        No wonder they told us not to bring cameras to all those Key Parties [wikipedia.org] in the '70s. They saw this coming.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gstoddart (321705)

      It seems to me that the number of incidences where this could possibly be an issue is astronomically slim. Need picture of key, need to know where the key goes, and need the method of duplicating key with picture accurately enough to be of use.

      This wouldn't work for picking someone at random.

      However, if you wanted the keys to a specific place, it sounds like it would be entirely feasible to do a little targeted surveillance and get your key.

      Still, demonstrating that you can do it means someone will find a r

    • by torkus (1133985)

      I don't rate this as 'zomg the l337 key haxx on my doorz' but for those with evil intent it is a security risk.

      People assume a fancy lock and solid door ensure security. People also assume someone with a key to open a door generally belongs there. If I wanted to commit a 'broad daylight' crime this would greatly simplify things.

      Heck, if a cop shows up and you've got a working key and a reasonable excuse you're pretty likely to be left alone.

      • by grahamsz (150076) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @04:08PM (#25575403) Homepage Journal

        I've seen it done. Thieves backed a truck up to one of the homes in my neighborhood, opened the garage door, wheeled out the appliances and left.

        I saw it happen as did several other neighbors, but it was one of the showhomes the builder was trying to sell and we figured that they buyer probably wanted a different appliance option and they were just going to switch them out. In retrospect they probably went into the home when it was showing on the weekend and left a window unlatched.

        They did it on a weekday afternoon, broad daylight and wearing somewhat matching uniforms and they just blended in.

    • by PPH (736903)

      This might be pretty pointless with someone's home. But I can think of several instances in which having access to certain facilities using a key will prevent the suspicion of bystanders by making it appear that your access is authorized.

    • Cameras are going to be equipped with Geo-Tagging in the not so distant future (some already are)... unsuspecting individuals won't realize that when they upload a photo with all the meta data intact that it will be possible to extract their location and possibly address.

      Still you are correct, even with this it will be rare occurrence: a picture with keys visible, geo-tagging intact and you happen to be at the location where the key is useful.

    • It seems to me that the number of incidences where this could possibly be an issue is astronomically slim. Need picture of key, need to know where the key goes, and need the method of duplicating key with picture accurately enough to be of use. Then there has to be a pretty impresive reason why any of the other less complicated and faster ways of breaking in wouldn't be useful.

      I dunno, i have a 10 Megapixel SLR camera with a telephoto lens that says otherwise. I could take 20 pictures of you in 3.1 seconds, and zoomed in, with ten megapixels to work with, i could get a good photo of your keys. Sitting in a car on your street doing this, i'd have no problem figuring out where the keys go.
      -Taylor

  • I don't know about M. Piquepaille, but it's not very hard to find my address online. How many places am I going to have keys for? My house, my car, my bike, and my mailbox. That's pretty much it. Besides, I geotag just about every picture I post to flickr. But who takes pictures of keys?
  • by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes@xmsnet . n l> on Thursday October 30, 2008 @01:57PM (#25573517)

    The mind boggles.

  • by cjfs (1253208) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @01:58PM (#25573523) Homepage Journal
    Locks are to keep honest people out.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      Indeed; I'd rather they took a picture of my key with a telephoto lens and got in that way than to have them break a window. Unfortunately, thieves are lazy or they'd get a job and it's a hell of a lot asier to break a window or use a crowbar on the door than to go to the trouble of photographing your key.

      That's one thing I hate about my car - the goddamn "open trunk" button. Previous cars I'd leave the doors unlocked and nothing of value inside, and windows down if the weather permitted (because thieves ar

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by jabelli (1144769)

        My car ('03 Sentra) has a lever inside the trunk by the lock. When flipped down, the electronic trunk release no longer functions, and you must use the key lock to open the trunk. Maybe yours does, too; have you looked?

      • by SQLGuru (980662)

        Two words: wire cutters

        Problem solved.

        Layne

      • by PitaBred (632671)

        The open trunk is kinda handy... but I've taken to using my trunk as a "hidden from view" place, rather than a secure lockbox. The main thing you don't want to do is give someone a reason to think there is anything in the trunk... don't put your laptop in the trunk when you pull up to the restaurant, put it in before you leave to go there. Don't leave valuable stuff in there overnight if you aren't parking in a garage.

        And if it really bothers you? Those trunk things are all actuated by a physical wire to

    • by mooingyak (720677)

      Locks are to keep honest people out.

      And drunks, or people who are just plain stupid. It doesn't work on someone smart enough, but it usually doesn't need to.

      Random story:
      I lived with my Grandmother for a few years, and I got into an argument with her about locking the screen door. I wanted to know what kind of criminal existed that would be able to tackle the massive heavy dead bolted door, but be completely stymied by the screen door where you could simply rip open the screen and unlock. Even more amusi

  • Who? (Score:4, Funny)

    by whisper_jeff (680366) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @01:58PM (#25573535)
    Who uploads photos of themselves (or others) holding credit cards or keys? In my entire life, I don't think I've EVER even TAKEN a photo like that, let alone thought about sharing it. Am I just bizarre or is it the people on Flickr? Ok, admittedly it could be both, but still....
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Captain Spam (66120)

      It's not so much holding the cards/keys, it's taking a picture where that's accidentally in the frame, and in fairly readable view. For an example, let's say you're selling something on eBay (insert obligatory Police Squad! joke here). It's not something that their stock pictures will cover, so you need to take a picture of it. Let's also assume that you don't have a photo studio handy, nor do you have an area of your house/apartment specially designed with a stage and neutral backdrop on which to take p

  • by pigiron (104729) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @01:59PM (#25573539) Homepage
    I locked my Cadillac once and left my keys lying on the drivers seat. The locksmith successfully cut a new door key by hand just by looking at the key through the window.
    • by wfstanle (1188751) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @02:17PM (#25573813)

      That's nothing! On the Discovery Health channel there was a story about a man that swallowed his friend's car key. They were too drunk to drive home and he wanted to prevent his friend from driving while drunk. To make a long story short, the spare key was lost and they they were able to make duplicate keys from an X-Ray that clearly showed the key.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by 77Punker (673758)

      A friend of mine during college used the same technique to duplicate a master key that fit most of the doors in our (somewhat small) school. He's always been an interesting character, though. That was several years ago and today he's a sysadmin but on the weekends he practices blacksmithing.

    • Once I locked myself out of my DeLorean, and the locksmith was able to make a copy of the key using only two pieces of wood, a knitting needle, and a half gram of coke.

  • by TheNecromancer (179644) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @01:59PM (#25573545)

    make copies of my keys. Have fun "playing" with my pitbull waiting for you on the other side of the door.

    • by u38cg (607297)
      Does your pitbull like playing with a well swung crowbar? Dogs are not a panacea, especially against someone who knows what he's doing.
      • Does your pitbull like playing with a well swung crowbar? Dogs are not a panacea, especially against someone who knows what he's doing.

        Haha, you wouldn't get a chance to swing it. The dog would be on you the moment you opened the door, and once he has a lock on your arm/leg/whatever, all thoughts of swinging said crowbar would leave your mind. I'm not saying dogs are a panacea, but it was a tongue-in-cheek response to the fact that most burglars are deterred by other means of home protection (dogs, guns, security systems, etc.).

        • by Kingrames (858416) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @02:21PM (#25573859)
          Clearly you are unaware that u38cg has taken the Improved Initiative feat.
        • by u38cg (607297)
          True. In general, you don't need to be really secure, you just need to be more secure than your next door neighbour. Generally, planting a rose bush under your window and leaving some lights on accomplishes that.

          Someone who knows what they are doing is a bit more difficult - I speak from experience. I grew up in riding schools, which generally have a lot of very expensive tack sitting in very insecure tackrooms, which often contain a dog. More than once I've seen or heard of an empty tackroom with a d

      • Does your pitbull like playing with a well swung crowbar? Dogs are not a panacea, especially against someone who knows what he's doing.

        Yeah, but dogs and CURTAINS are!!!

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Dog Are all intimidation. If you know what to do they are easy to deal with, yes even your [Mean dog of the day].

  • You mean like this [wired.com], but from 200 feet away?

    It's only a matter of time before Google Maps 0wns your keys.

  • by ChenLiWay (260829) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @02:00PM (#25573569)

    Keys only serve to keep honest people honest. A lock pick and torsion bar can mimic any (average) key anyways.

    The story is interesting (on the subject of computer vision) but shouldn't scare anyone.

    • by arth1 (260657)

      Keys only serve to keep honest people honest. A lock pick and torsion bar can mimic any (average) key anyways.

      Add a hollow "pick" attached to a a can of air. Quite a few cylinder locks will allow turning if all the cylinders are pushed all the way up. Instant $5 master key.

      But I'd imagine a crowbar being faster and more reliable, and it doubles as a defensive tool.

  • by line-bundle (235965) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @02:18PM (#25573821) Homepage Journal

    I have a great idea: use Hubble to get a picture of the key to the universe and ask walmart to make it very cheaply.

  • Ha! (Score:2, Funny)

    by TinFoilMan (1371973)
    Get into my house however you want, my wife is going through menopause, she's bi-polar, and she has my shotgun.
  • by Mr. Firewall (578517) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @02:18PM (#25573825) Homepage

    Remember the old days when swingers used to have "key parties?"

    For the young and innocent who have never been exposed to such debauchery -- they would get together and throw all the mens' motel room keys in a hat. Then the ladies would pick them out of the hat and go to that key's room....

    Well, now the possibilities for adultfriendfinder dot com have just been expanded... Just post a picture of your key and wait for your new friends to show up!

    • Despite being quite awful, there's a reference to key parties in the Grinch movie (the remake with Jim Carey, directed by Ron Howard.) As a bunch of Who's enter a who-house for a Christmas party, they all throw their keys into a fishbowl by the window. My kids had no idea why I was laughing my ass off.

  • by ProppaT (557551) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @02:20PM (#25573857) Homepage

    I can't even get those chumps at home depot to give me a copy that works when they're using the original, much less a photograph.

  • Who needs the profile of an individual key when you can open any lock of the same type with a simple filed down key [wikipedia.org]?
  • I wonder when I'll be able to order more ordinary duplicate keys by emailing in a couple of photos.

    Ordering duplicate keys by sending in a photo is a whole lot less secure than doing it in person. If I go in person to get a duplicate key, I can watch and see that they didn't make a copy for themself, I get the original back right away with the copy, I don't have to tell them where I live, and I can pay cash. If I were to order remotely by photo, they know where I live (either from my shipping address or my

  • by Cthefuture (665326) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @02:40PM (#25574147)

    The best antitheft device on my car is the manual transmission. ;)

  • Even ignoring a bump key or a lock pick or a hundred other things. Houses are not secured via a key. Keys stop opportunity thieves. They keep alzheimer patients from going into the wrong home. This is not a big deal.
  • Most pin tumbler locks (like the one on your front door) are pathetically easy to break using a set of bump keys that you can make yourself or buy online for $10.

    If you want real security, you need a high security deadbolt. Breaking a good lock like an Abloy Protec is considerably more difficult. The Protec, for example, doesn't use pins. That means that it can't be bumped and it can't be picked (note that I said it can't be picked, not that it can't be manipulated). The end result is that it takes differen

  • I have made thousands of key duplicates (family retail business), so I have a little knowledge in key duplication. Here's two bits of knowledge: 1) When you make a copy from the original key, the copy is, maybe, a hair off on either or both the pin offset and depth. Depending on the age and quality of the lock, this minor deviation can cause the key not to work. Copies from originals work (best guestimate) 99/100 times.
    2) Most people do not have their original keys anymore. They have 2nd, 3rd, or 4th gener
    • by PitaBred (632671)

      Get it close enough, paint the key with a soft paint, let it dry, then stick the key in and try turning it. File off the edges where the paint has been compressed/scratched. Voila!

      You don't need an exact copy. You just need a working copy.

  • Modify your lock with a "duress key" which, when it turns, sprays pepper spray at the person in front of the door (and remains locked). Post a photo of that one.
    (using a lock with a core-removal key and then modifying that mechanism might be one place to start; remember you don't actually want the core to come out though)

    Seriously, sight-reading keys is nothing new. Ask a locksmith about cutting a new key based on a car key left on the front seat. I'm pretty sure the idea has even been on slashdot before

  • The summary mentions blurring credit card and check number details to post such things on the web. It has been shown, and I believe posted on slashdot that the numbers can still be recovered.
  • I don't think that many of you put a photo of their keys online -- with their addresses.

    Maybe not, but how many of us expose our keys in places where they could be covertly photographed with telephoto lenses and/or cameraphones?

  • I'm very curious as to how far this sort of photometrics can be developed. If you can measure a key well enough to manufacture a duplicate just by viewing a picture with the key in it (not even necessarily a picture *of* they key, just with it in a picture lying there on the table) the capabilities for making precise measurements of complex arrangements of parts aren't that far off. Add the time dimension in, and things get more interesting; instead of having to mount a potentiometer or LVDT or accelerome

  • ...that you still need the hardware to cut the key blank.

  • When I get a key copy made from the original key, half the time it doesn't work! And it costs more money to drive back to the store to get another one than the copy costs. Grr...

  • If you think that's creepy, don't worry. It's way easier to get duplicates than taking a photo. My father in law is training to be a locksmith as a retirement hobby, and I'd recently purchased a motorcycle. It was used, and when I got it, it only had the one key. I'm a lazy kind of guy, so I never got around to getting a replacement. I *talked* about getting copies made all the time, but never actually did. Anyhow, my wife sent him the VIN, and a couple weeks later, I got two keys in the mail. Apparently, t

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