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July 29, 2014 8:03 PM   Subscribe

“If you lose sight of your keys for the better part of 20 seconds, you should consider them lost,” says Jos Weyers, a Dutch lockpicking guru and security consultant. “If you find them later, consider them a souvenir.” The App I Used to Break Into My Neighbor’s Home
posted by fings (54 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
PARKING VALETS SUDDENLY REQUIRE A LUDICROUS LEVEL OF TRUST.

Only for the proles. Us inner party members drive cars with keyfobs and valet keys and outer party members drive newer cars with built in immobilizers.
posted by Talez at 8:11 PM on July 29


I think it was already the case that a determined attacker could gain entrance to your apartment before KeyMe came along.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:14 PM on July 29 [3 favorites]


Like a “forgot my password” function for physical security,

So the easily-socially-engineered function now has a physical counterpart?

"A lock is for the honest people."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:15 PM on July 29 [3 favorites]


"It's a whole new thing because now we're doing it with a computer."

Boy, that line of reasoning never gets old..
posted by Nerd of the North at 8:22 PM on July 29 [18 favorites]


Only for the proles. Us inner party members drive cars with keyfobs and valet keys and outer party members drive newer cars with built in immobilizers.

Inner party members drive my old Honda Civic?
posted by entropicamericana at 8:22 PM on July 29 [3 favorites]


I think passwords and keys are doomed to the dust bin of history eventually. I sometimes feel like the only way to protect yourself is to not have anything that someone else wants.
posted by empath at 8:24 PM on July 29 [14 favorites]


The thing is KeyMe and the like reduce the effort, from that of a determined attacker to a more casual one. I do not expect that genie to get back into the bottle, but I hope people are aware of the increased vulnerability.
posted by fings at 8:24 PM on July 29 [2 favorites]


Typical house locks have never been good for anything but keeping out the neighborhood's badly-raised teenagers. They're authentication more than security - "no key means you're not allowed to be here", as compared to genuine protection from a marginally determined or competent attacker.

With a bit of practice you can open most house locks with one of the long bits of metal brush the street-cleaning trucks leave behind. You don't even need to own special tools, most of the time the only thing you need is already lying around outside the front door.
posted by mhoye at 8:28 PM on July 29 [4 favorites]


Our front door is 150 years old, you wouldn't need to go to all the trouble of making a counterfeit key, a good shoulder would pop the thing right open. If not that there are eight first floor windows that are just as old and as easy to get past.
posted by octothorpe at 8:28 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


The thing is KeyMe and the like reduce the effort, from that of a determined attacker to a more casual one.

"More casual" attackers aren't really attackers. It takes little effort to throw a rock through a window, and yet most of us have unbroken windows in our homes. As noted above, locks only keep out honest people. KeyMe and the like won't increase crime.
posted by Etrigan at 8:28 PM on July 29 [3 favorites]


As noted above, locks only keep out honest people.

They also keep out the undercompetent, lazy, opportunistic people, and there are more of them around than you'd think.
posted by mhoye at 8:33 PM on July 29 [15 favorites]


Sure you could pick the lock at our house. Sure you could come inside. If you make it that far the next and last thing you'd hear is the clacking of the nails of the undead Japanese schoolgirl we keep in the television for just such an occasion.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:36 PM on July 29 [38 favorites]


As noted above, locks only keep out honest people.

They also keep out the undercompetent, lazy, opportunistic people, and there are more of them around than you'd think.


The undercompetent, lazy, opportunistic people have so many easier and simpler ways to get past locks than taking keys, using their smartphones to make copies, and having them delivered to a physical address.
posted by Etrigan at 8:40 PM on July 29 [3 favorites]


I agree the WIRED article is sensationalist, but I do think that there are some people who want to break into a house but don't want to risk doing something suspicious like smashing a window or forcing a lock. These would be less crimes of convenience and more premeditated crimes. So I don't think there's going to be a crime wave of 3D printing burglars, but I do think this opens options that perhaps people with ill intent didn't even consider before.
posted by codacorolla at 8:46 PM on July 29 [4 favorites]


This thread is terrifying.
posted by bleep at 8:46 PM on July 29 [2 favorites]


The thing about someone having a key, though, is that they are now in accord with the social convention about who is allowed through a door.

Sure, I can get through most doors with plain old force. Windows too. Or I can pick the lock. By doing so I'm sending a signal to the world that I'm breaking and entering, and that raises the risk of what I'm doing.

If I walk up to a door with a key and use it to enter, even a suspicious neighbor following along is likely enough to assume I'm supposed to be there and authorized to go inside.

(It's always been easy enough to use a bar of soap or paper/pencil or any other method of making an imprint, of course, so the app angle isn't that new.)
posted by weston at 8:47 PM on July 29 [6 favorites]


I sometimes feel like the only way to protect yourself is to not have anything that someone else wants.

Hey, I'm covered! The way things are going, I'll be the lady on the street with a cup and sign.
It's gonna be a really nice sign though...will that be a problem?
posted by BlueHorse at 8:50 PM on July 29 [3 favorites]


"It's a whole new thing because now we're doing it with a computer."

Not even that. I've cut keys with the CNC milling machine out in the garage.

And unlike this scheme I can do it with a picture from a telephoto lens.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:51 PM on July 29


they are now in accord with the social convention about who is allowed through a door.

Oh yes, I must be allowed in. I have a key, right?
Oh, the places you'll go with work boots, dickies, a "AAA MOVING" shirt and a clipboard...
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:54 PM on July 29 [8 favorites]


I was locked out of my condo a few months ago. It was evening and building management was closed. Security isn't allowed to let us into the units (keys are with management, not security). My dog was inside so I didn't feel like I could just go spend the night elsewhere. Locksmith it was!

The locksmith, who I assume to be a skilled lock-picker and knower of all things look took about half an hour to get in. The lock has some feature or other to prevent lock-picking and it was hell to drill through the barrel. It was also crazy loud. So while I was annoyed by the expense, I'm now very reassured to know it's damn-near impossible for anyone without a key to get into my condo without my noticing.

Am I wrong? I mean the locksmith didn't want to damage my door other than the lock that would be replaced. Would someone who cared less be able to get in more quickly and quietly?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:57 PM on July 29


Who are you, and how did you get in here?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:03 PM on July 29 [5 favorites]


Hey, up until three months ago I played in a band with one of the founders of KeysDuplicated. We peppered him with these exact questions. This is the first time I'm one degree of separation from a Metafilter FPP!

Best band I've ever been in too, I was bummed to move away.
posted by Existential Dread at 9:08 PM on July 29 [3 favorites]


Oh, the places you'll go with work boots, dickies, a "AAA MOVING" shirt and a clipboard...

You don't need a key. Just some overalls that say AAA LOCKSMITHS.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:08 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


Would someone who cared less be able to get in more quickly and quietly?

Quietly? Not really. Quickly? Well, do you have reinforced frames?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:14 PM on July 29


I already know where all my neighbours keep their spare keys so I can break in any time!
posted by fshgrl at 9:17 PM on July 29


The obvious security defeat is either a masked tooth key or more easily anything electronic.

If only I had a penguin...: "Would someone who cared less be able to get in more quickly and quietly?"

Practically any wood frame door can be forced in under a minute with a crowbar with minimal noise. A bottle jack and a length of 4x4 will quietly force any door frame not set directly in concrete or similar. (Expensive Law Enforcement Version)
posted by Mitheral at 9:25 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


I was curious, so I looked up key duplication techniques (hello watchlist!). There are a few methods that are already pretty similar to the above. Have access to the key, photograph it against a plain white surface and then figure out the key's gage and length, use a power tool or a hand file to make your reproduction against a print-out silhouette from photoshop.

This seems difficult, and like it would be easily foiled by an improperly cut key, or a fancier lock. It also seems tricky to get the right gage and length, since (from what I gathered) lock smiths won't just sell blanks, and buying a bunch of blanks without being a locksmith seems difficult. Many modern locks also have side grooves and angled teeth to prevent picking and duplication, so it's more than just matching the silhouette of the teeth.

There's a method that requires at least ten minutes with the original key, and involves putting it into a fast setting rubber mold, and then cutting it out and pouring molten metal into the cast. This requires direct undisturbed contact with the key, carrying around a mold kit, and then still seems vulnerable to imperfect castings that you might not realize until you try to break in. I'd imagine that this would work for both secure locks as well as cheap locks, but once again fairly cumbersome. I suppose you could duplicate this with clay? I don't know anything about metal casting, so I don't know if you'd get the right level of fidelity.

I also checked out lockpicking with a bump key (basically key archetypes that trick the tumblers into going up for a split second while applying pressure, simulating the right key silhouette). Pretty easy to do, it seems, but also fairly noisy and conspicuous. Plus it only works against cheaper locks.

My main question is how hard is it to get a key blank? That seems like the kind of thing that lock manufacturers and law enforcement would want to regulate, but me doing a three second search for "buy key blanks" turned up sites that seemed open to the regular consumer.

Regardless, with all of the above, there seems to be a lot of room for error. With the key duplication services there's much less chance you're going to be spending a lot of time suspiciously fumbling with your (possibly) ill fitting homemade key.

I guess that the company does have a point that law enforcement can always do a reverse look-up of the key in case of a criminal investigation, but I wonder if law enforcement even think to do that. I mean, I'd imagine that unless there's a string of robberies or some sort of associated assault or murder, most robberies aren't even investigated that closely.
posted by codacorolla at 9:32 PM on July 29 [2 favorites]


Quickly? Well, do you have reinforced frames?

hmmm...I just did some googling and it looks like what's visible is done right. The door frame seems to be metal, though, not wood as the sites seem to assume. Regardless, it seems safe to assume that a non-deafening bump in the night is unlikely to be coming from inside my condo, if that's the first noise I hear.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:41 PM on July 29


My main question is how hard is it to get a key blank?

Wal-mart literally has a rack of them out in the open, and I doubt the cashier would raise much fuss if you checked out with an uncut one.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 10:07 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


Regardless, it seems safe to assume that a non-deafening bump in the night is unlikely to be coming from inside my condo, if that's the first noise I hear.

The other option would be cutting in with a torch.
posted by Jahaza at 10:17 PM on July 29


Fire Department Halligan entry (wiki)
posted by benzenedream at 10:28 PM on July 29


If anybody is watching David Rees's new show Going Deep, he had an episode on opening a door last night with a master lock-picker who claimed he could press a key into his skin for less than a minute and use the temporary indentation left behind to generate a useful key profile. No app or even pencil/paper needed.
posted by dogwalker at 10:31 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


I wonder if my Abloy key is much better than a normal key in this context. I suspect you'd need photos of both sides, but that doesn't seem difficult.
posted by maxwelton at 11:00 PM on July 29


"KeyMe says it will even duplicate keys marked “do not duplicate,” including some high-security keys sold by Medeco, Mul-T-lock and Schlage."

And here I was thinking it a privilege to have fancy lock that requires me to call my indolent landlord and drop $20 whenever I need my key copied.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:57 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


Maxwelton: I was going to bring up Abloy - yup, this is the lock to get.

As far as photographing - yeah, you can do that, or you can use a bump key (on most crappy locks - and most home locks in the states are crappy).

As far as your noisy drilling scenario with the locksmith - did any neighbors in your apartment walk by or ask questions about this? I ask as I've lock-picked my front door (lost/forgot keys) a number of times; sitting at my door for 10 minutes and no one in my apartment noticed or said anything.

But visit Sweden sometime; their front doors (and padlocks, and everything) seems to be secured with quite serious locks - Sweden is for advanced lock-pickers only (and good luck if they are using the Scandinavian made Abloy).
posted by el io at 12:25 AM on July 30


Haha, you don't need an app for that. Just use a key gauge to measure the cuts, then place an order to a sketchy locksmith, and you'll have your key in a day or two.

Or you could take apart your home or office lock and measure the pins inside to make a master key for your apartment building or employer. When I worked at Apple, one of my friends made a grandmaster for Apple's entire Cupertino headquarters that way.

Having an app doesn't make this any easier. It has always been super easy to do.
posted by ryanrs at 12:35 AM on July 30 [1 favorite]


"Key Blanks" are just pieces of metal. If you're prepared to cut your own keys you can trivially make the blanks.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:55 AM on July 30


Oh, the places you'll go with work boots, dickies, a "AAA MOVING" shirt and a clipboard...

Once upon a time I worked in a film and video museum. This was back in the day when flat screen tvs were ball-crushingly expensive, and plasma even more so. The museum - from a propitious if not actively hedonist initial funding arrangement - had a plethora of then-gigantic, top-of-the-line Pioneer Plasma tvs used for showing smaller clips and installations etc. These babies were at the time, widely considered the creme-de-la-creme of flatscreen and they retailed for some totally insane price - around 8-10k here in Australia I think.

There was a huge stuff up one day, when two flourescent vest-clad chaps came into the gallery pushing a trolley, and wheeled away with about twenty of them. They practically cleared out the basement gallery, and every single employee just assumed they were technicians taking them for servicing.
posted by smoke at 3:57 AM on July 30 [3 favorites]


I don't even know if I have a key to my home. We always use the garage door opener to come and go.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:13 AM on July 30 [1 favorite]


The Great Brain used to do this sort of thing with an imprint off a bar of soap.
posted by johnofjack at 5:50 AM on July 30 [2 favorites]


Yay! A thread for someone who is already paranoid about home invasions and burglaries!

:)
posted by Kitteh at 6:24 AM on July 30 [1 favorite]


With a bit of practice you can open most house locks with one of the long bits of metal brush the street-cleaning trucks leave behind. You don't even need to own special tools, most of the time the only thing you need is already lying around outside the front door.

To be clear, you need to grind the brush bristles down into shaped picks for this to work. You can not actually pick up street sweeper bristles and open a lock with them.
posted by phooky at 6:25 AM on July 30


To be clear, you need to grind the brush bristles down into shaped picks for this to work. You can not actually pick up street sweeper bristles and open a lock with them.

You would also need to shape one into a torsion wrench. Picks alone won't do you any good.
posted by jedicus at 6:50 AM on July 30 [2 favorites]


el io Yes, several neighbours came out and said "locked out, eh?" I suspect they would have called security if someone had been drilling through my door and I had not been sitting next to them.

Anyway, I don't think anyone wants into my condo so badly that they would blow torch it or drill through the lock or do anything nearly that attention drawing. And in truth I'm not that paranoid about breakins at all, it really is just the bump-in-the-night scenario where I could swear that sounded like it was coming from inside. Since the locksmith I've just rolled over and dismissed it, since I figure I surely would have heard anyone coming in.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:22 AM on July 30


Sure, I can get through most doors with plain old force. Windows too. Or I can pick the lock. By doing so I'm sending a signal to the world that I'm breaking and entering, and that raises the risk of what I'm doing.

Due to accidental lockouts, I have either broken into other people's homes or had friends who were pet-sitting break into mine a total of probably 5 times. In one instance, I was repeatedly bashing a window at my parents house with a tree branch, sadly unaware that they had installed shatter-proof glass. A neighbor later helped me get into the house by crowbarring the door frame, after I knocked on his door. I hadn't lived in my parents' house in years; this neighbor had never met me before. Yet he cheerfully helped me break in.

In another, friends broke a window in broad daylight in order to get back into our house.

Nobody has ever noticed or said anything to any of us.

One time some kids left the gate between our yard and our back-door neighbor's yard open. I didn't know it and let our dog into the backyard. It went through the open gate and got hold of the neighbor's pet rabbit. I was trying to catch the dog and get the rabbit away from it, and at the same time screaming for help at the top of my lungs. Nobody heard me. There were other adults at home in my house, in the house the rabbit belonged to, and next door to my house, and not one person noticed anything wrong as I screamed for upwards of 5 minutes and my other dogs barked frantically.
posted by not that girl at 7:37 AM on July 30


simple solution: over insure
posted by Postroad at 8:24 AM on July 30


Wal-mart literally has a rack of them out in the open, and I doubt the cashier would raise much fuss if you checked out with an uncut one.

And surely someone bent on home invasion would never shoplift a blank off the rack.
posted by BrashTech at 8:28 AM on July 30


finally someone is disrupting the entrenched burglary market this will be a boon for consumers
posted by klangklangston at 8:33 AM on July 30 [6 favorites]


All that lockpick practice and for what? Now I'm obsolete.
posted by Splunge at 10:17 AM on July 30 [1 favorite]


its like uber for b&e
posted by klangklangston at 11:05 AM on July 30 [3 favorites]


When I was at Oberlin some 25 years ago, a friend of mine got a hold of the dorm master key and scribed it onto an old credit card and made a copy. After comparing it to a master in another few dorms, he refined it and had a master key for every dorm room on north campus.

South campus had a different master. I think he eventually got that too.

We also figured out how to make key cards for the (stupid) electronic locks on the dorms, but that was easy.

I was living in North Hall (the furthest North dorm) and for some certainly clever reason, I was assigned to eat in South Hall (the furthest South dorm with a dining hall). Me and a few others in the same circumstances forged replacement stickers for the dining card that allowed us to get into Dascomb (the centrally located dining hall).

We also got really good at forging hand stamps for beer parties, allowing us to cut costs.

Which only goes to show that time and creativity are a logical consequence of penury and laziness.
posted by plinth at 11:14 AM on July 30


I started my lockpicking career in the World Trade Center garage. I showed the parking lot attendant that I could open the box that held car keys for the whole garage with a paper clip. Won me a beer.
posted by Splunge at 12:11 PM on July 30


And here I was thinking it a privilege to have fancy lock that requires me to call my indolent landlord and drop $20 whenever I need my key copied.

Oh, the places you'll go with work boots, dickies, a "AAA MOVING" shirt and a clipboard...

Speaking as a (former) indolent landlord: I walked into a locksmith with a DND key and asked for 20 copies, OK, no problem.

Next customer came in with a DND key and asked for one copy. Nope, come back with a written authorization from building owner.

The difference?

Work boots, dickies...
posted by hafehd at 2:55 PM on July 30 [1 favorite]


but what happened to the rabbit
posted by vsync at 12:41 AM on July 31


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