Most of us don't think twice about leaving our keys on our desks or lending them to friends. When we founded Keys Duplicated, a way to easily copy house keys with a phone, we knew we'd have to adjust how we all view the safety of our keys.
Keys are a physical incarnation of the password to your door. That phrase may sound weird, but thats actually how keys work. The depths of the teeth of a key encode a sequence of numbers. If you know these numbers, you can open the door.
Now think about how you typically treat your keys. Do you treat them with the same vigilance as, say, your email password? Your phone password? Would you ever wear your credit card number or bank password on a carabiner, the way some people wear their keys?
If you want to see first-hand how cavalier we are with our physical security, search twitter for “new keys.” A bit shocking isn’t it? Now, Keys Duplicated requires pictures of the back and front of keys, so we won't process these images. But some keys have their cut codes stamped onto them, so anyone could turn an image into a copy of a key.
A simple search for "new keys" on twitter shows that people need to be more careful with their keys
There are many benefits that come with online key duplication. You can save a trip to the hardware store, prevent lockouts by backing up your key on your phone, and exchange keys with your AirBnB guests. Delivery services use our service to drop off boxes behind your front gate. We’ve been asked many times if these conveniences are worth the security risks. This has been extensively debated on news outlets and blogs. But the real answer is that it doesn't matter; most keys are still vulnerable to duplication even without new online services. The ability to surreptitiously copy someone's key or break into a house is a threat whether or not we exist. Don’t believe me? Check out this video from Brian Brushwood showing how easy it is to get past a standard household lock. Even without online technology, most locks used in the US are extremely insecure. An untraceable $5 "bump key" can get you access to most doors in about 10 seconds. Online duplication at least requires a paper trail.
Let's all follow a few simple, commonsense rules that can help prevent surreptitious duplication:
Don't flaunt it, even if you've got it: Keep keys in a pocket, purse, or anything else worthy of guarding your credit cards.
Don't set yourself up: Don't leave your keys unattended, even on your desk at work. You wouldn't keep a framed picture of your social security number on your desk, would you?
Beware the borrower: Be careful who you let borrow your keys, whether it's a friend, mechanic or valet. Only hand over the necessary keys, not your whole key-ring.
Amp up your security: Buy (or have your landlord buy) high security locks (Medeco, ASSA, Marks, and Mul-t-lock are your best bets) that aren harder duplicate or pick than the standard Schlage and Kwikset keys. Take it one step further and buy a security system to deter crime.
Be anti-social: With your keys, that is -- Don't post pictures of your keys on Twitter, Facebook, or other online service. Just don't do it. Not even if you have a cute new princess-themed key.
Searching twitter for “my password” or “social security number” shows that we’ve learned not to share some of our sensitive information with the world. Help us get the word out that keys should be kept just as private. And next time you’re thinking about wearing your keys on a carabiner, maybe you should think again.