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Think House Keys Are Safe, Think Again

KeysIf you think your house keys are safe from being copied as long as the bad guys do not touch them? Think again.

New research from the University of California shows that a new software package created by the schools computer scientist can create replicas of your house keys from a grainy digital image.

The technology is just at the school now but when it hits the wild one picture from a digital camera, a computer, and a key machine can create an exact replica of your house key.

Great news for locksmiths but a scary thought for homeowners everywhere.

The bumps and valleys on your house or office keys represent a numeric code that completely describes how to open your particular lock. If a key doesn’t encode this precise “bitting code,” then it won’t open your door.

In one demonstration of the new software system, the computer scientists took pictures of common residential house keys with a cell phone camera, fed the image into their software which then produced the information needed to create identical copies. In another example, they used a five inch telephoto lens to capture images from the roof of a campus building and duplicate keys sitting on a café table about 200 feet away.

“This idea should come as little surprise to locksmiths or lock vendors,” said Savage. “There are experts who have been able to copy keys by hand from high-resolution photographs for some time. However, we argue that the threat has turned a corner—cheap image sensors have made digital cameras pervasive and basic computer vision techniques can automatically extract a key’s information without requiring any expertise.”  via Jacobs School of Engineering


  1. Wow! that is fascinating.

    I wonder if vulnerabilities like that will lead to widespread use of digital entry solutions.

  2. if you were given the garage door openers and house key to a new house you just bought … you have it painted and move in and then the agent calls three days later and says the seller has not signed all the papers… what do you do next ? thank you

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