Feeds

House key copied from photo

Your door ain't so secure, mate

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Security researchers have developed a technique for copying house keys using only a picture of a key.

The approach - developed by computer scientists at UC San Diego - requires no physical access to keys and only a relatively low resolution picture for the software to work. Boffins at the university said they developed the approach in order to nail the false belief that keys are inherently secure.

In one demo, the computers scientists took camera phone pictures of a residential key to pull out the information needed to create identical copies using image-recognition software. A second exercise featured the use of a 5in telephoto lens to take pictures of a key from 200 feet away.

The keys analysed had a series of five or six cuts, spaced regularly. The San Diego team developed software (dubbed Sneakey) that was capable of analysing photos from nearly any angle to measure the depth of each cut, the so-called bitting code. This, alongside knowledge of the brand and type of key, is enough to make a duplicate.

Adjusting for a wide range of different possible angles and distances between the camera and the target key created headaches for the researchers. They got around this problem by matching control points from a reference image onto the equivalent points in the target image.

"We built our key duplication software system to show people that their keys are not inherently secret," said Stefan Savage, a computer science professor from UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering. "Perhaps this was once a reasonable assumption, but advances in digital imaging and optics have made it easy to duplicate someone’s keys from a distance without them even noticing."

Savage added that some locksmiths have been able to copy keys by sight from high-resolution pics. The development of better image processing software makes it possible to extract the necessary data with far less expertise. The researchers carried out the exercise using Yale keys and its not clear how effective the approach would be using other types of keys.

Professor Savage presented the student-led research at the ACM’s Conference on Communications and Computer Security 2008 in Alexandria, Virginia on Thursday (30 October). ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
George Clooney, WikiLeaks' lawyer wife hand out burner phones to wedding guests
Day 4: 'News'-papers STILL rammed with Clooney nuptials
Shellshock: 'Larger scale attack' on its way, warn securo-bods
Not just web servers under threat - though TENS of THOUSANDS have been hit
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
PEAK IPV4? Global IPv6 traffic is growing, DDoS dying, says Akamai
First time the cache network has seen drop in use of 32-bit-wide IP addresses
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.