Feeds

House key copied from photo

Your door ain't so secure, mate

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

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). ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
One HUNDRED FAMOUS LADIES exposed NUDE online
Celebrity women victimised as Apple iCloud accounts reportedly popped
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
Rubbish WPS config sees WiFi router keys popped in seconds
Another day, another way in to your home router
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
Three quarters of South Korea popped in online gaming raids
Records used to plunder game items, sold off to low lifes
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.