3D Printing Apps May Pose a Security Risk

Written by | Updated October 1, 2014

New technology may make it easier for burglars to break into your home simply by using your own key against you. Recently developed smartphone apps, like KeyMe, allow anyone with a camera phone to take a photo of your key, then upload it to the web or use a kiosk to make a 3D-printed copy. They can then simply walk right into your home when you’re away or asleep.

Why make such an app?

The developers of KeyMe, and similar apps, like Keysave and KeysDuplicated, claim they created the apps to solve the problem of owners locking themselves out of their homes. With these apps, you’re able to simply snap a couple of photos of your house key and upload them to the Cloud.

Once uploaded, you can have the companies make you a 3D copy and mail it to you or, in the case of KeyMe, you can locate a kiosk and do it yourself. As of now, KeyMe allows you to also make copies of your car keys, and KeysDuplicated plans to follow suit.

What is 3D Printing?

3D printing allows you to create anything from personalized chess sets to firearms and even a house by layering slices of material, such as plastic and metal. Though it has had heavy use in industrial applications for years, it has more recently gained prominence in public use with the advent of more accessible and portable machines. Once a software program like KeyMe has a 3D image of an item, it can use a printer to stack layers of material to create an exact replica of the object.

Is it safe?

KeyMe CEO Greg Marsh claims that the 3D printing services are safe and that the company offers safeguards to help ensure security.

“We have all this accountability and data that doesn’t exist when you make keys with traditional methods,” Marsh said. “If a key was found to be used maliciously, we have a clear path to find out who was responsible.”

He stated in an interview that KeyMe users are required to enter account information and credit cards that enable them to track people using their services. They also have fingerprint scanners on their kiosks to further keep track of customers.

A “Wired” reporter decided to test this, and found it to be less than accurate.

“Wired’s” Andy Greenberg, after acquiring permission, took photos of his neighbor’s house key and traveled to the nearest kiosk to make a copy. Within an hour, he walked right into his neighbor’s home, entering the house with the key at the front door. He was even able to scan the keys while they were still on his neighbor’s keychain.

The implications are serious. Though Marsh argues there are security measures in place, technology is steadily moving forward and someone could feasibly photograph your keys from far away. You would never know who had done it. With apps making it possible for burglars to walk right into your door, it also reduces evidence of a break-in.

While apps like KeyMe provide a great way to replace a lost key, they also make it more important than ever that you keep track of where you leave them in the first place.

Image: Key Me

Written by Holly King

Holly is a regular safety and security contributor for Safewise. In her spare time she enjoys cycling, cooking and re-organizing her home. Learn more

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