I-Team: New Technology Could Let Thieves Copy Keys

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Using a simple camera or camera phone, it is now possible to snap a photo of almost any key ring and use the image to make a physical copy of a key. Chris Glorioso reports. (Published Wednesday, May 21, 2014)

    Using a simple camera or camera phone, it is now possible to snap a photo of almost any key ring and use the image to make a physical copy of a key.

    The I-Team did just that, using a web site called keysduplicated.com.

    With a smartphone camera, the I-Team took a photo of a key ring lying unarranged on a desk. After the image was run though photo-editing software, and one house key was isolated, the image was uploaded to the web site. Within a week, the company sent the I-Team a copy of the key,which opened the front door of a home. 

    In crowded Bryant Park one recent day, Devon White’s key ring was one of several the I-Team found sitting in plain sight, vulnerable to a camera phone snapshot.

    "It's always cool when new technology moves in a new direction, but it is a bit worrying,” said White, of Queens, after learning about this new vulnerability. “You wonder ... anybody could just take a picture of anybody else's key."

    Police in Nassau County said they first became aware of the new key-cutting technology in recent months. They said they have not linked any crimes to it yet, but they are urging people to use caution in how they handle their keys.

    "All it takes to cut a key is you just have to have the outline of the key," said Detective Sgt. Richard Harasym, who heads Nassau’s Crimes Against Property Unit. "It's unlocking the keys to your castle, so to speak, and if you leave them out there, then you run the risk that something bad could happen."

    The I-Team contacted Ali Rahimi, the founder of the web site. Rahimi admitted News 4's demonstration reveals a security risk, and said he will look for ways to close it. Still, but he said he's unaware of any customer who's ever used one of his keys illegally.

    "It's worth incorporating the lessons we've learned from your experiment. It’ll take some thought,” said Rahimi.

    Rahimi said one possibility might be to use software that detects when photos have been doctored. The web site does require a credit card for payment. Until better security checks can be implemented, he said his employees will screen for any suspicious-looking pictures, and ask for additional photos of the key in the customer’s hands.  

    “That’ll ensure they have physical access to the key,” he said.

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