Did you know that it’s possible (even almost trivial) to make a copy of a key (such as your house key) with nothing more than a picture of the key (in other words, you don’t need to actually have the keys in your possession in order to makes copies of keys). What this means is that you can clone a key from a picture, so don’t ever post pictures of your keys online!
While the technology may not be widespread (or, it may be, at this point – why take a chance?), it was proved several years ago, by Professor Stefan Savage, of the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), and his research profect, which lead to Sneakey key cloning software.
Savage says that with this proof, we should all be as careful with our keys as with our credit cards, and “keep it in your pocket unless you need to use it.”
By far the biggest concern is photos posted online in which keys appear.
Explains Savage, “If you go onto a photo-sharing site such as Flickr, you will find many photos of people’s keys that can be used to easily make duplicates. While people generally blur out the numbers on their credit cards and driver’s licenses before putting those photos on-line, they don’t realize that they should take the same precautions with their keys.”
Locksmiths have been able to duplicate keys from photographs for some time, but with advances in software, criminals may be able to do it as well. In fact, as Professor Savage’s research and key cloning software first surfaced several years go, it’s almost certain that others are doing it now.
During the Sneakey research, Savage’s group cloned a key from an image they had taken from a rooftop, 200 feet away from the table at a cafe on which the keys were sitting.
Of course it’s unlikely that anyone reading this would be the target of someone on a roof.
But it’s entirely possible that as you are letting yourself into your house or your car, or your office, that someone could snap a picture of your extended key with a cell phone.
Then it’s a simple matter to scan the image, and duplicate the key.
“We built our key duplication software system to show people that their keys are not inherently secret. Perhaps this was once a reasonable assumption, but advances in digital imaging and optics have made it easy to duplicate someone’s keys from a distance without them even noticing.” warns Savage.
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