How to keep your keys safe

How to keep your keys safe

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:

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.