Printed from the blog of Lori Greene, AHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI
Email:, Blog: or

Jul 28 2014

Wired: The App I Used to Break Into My Neighbor’s Home

Category: Locks & KeysLori @ 12:57 am Comments (13)

Joe Prosser from LaForce, Inc., sent me a link to an article in Wired magazine, which describes the procedure for key duplication using KeyMe, a service that allows you to upload photos of keys and pick up duplicate keys from kiosks in NYC.  You can read the full article here – Wired: The App I Used to Break Into My Neighbor’s Home, and here’s a short excerpt:

My neighbor lives on the second floor of a Brooklyn walk-up, so when I came to his front door he tossed me a pair of keys rather than walk down the stairs to let me in. I opened the door, climbed the stairs, and handed his keys back to him. We chatted about our weekends. I drank a glass of water. Then I let him know that I would be back soon to gain unauthorized access to his home.

Less than an hour later, I owned a key to his front door.

What I didn’t tell my neighbor was that I spent about 30 seconds in the stairwell scanning his keys with software that would let me reproduce them with no specialized skills whatsoever. The iPhone app I used wasn’t intended for anything so nefarious: KeyMe was designed to let anyone photograph their keys and upload them to the company’s servers. From there, they can be 3-D printed and mail-ordered in a variety of novelty shapes, from a bottle opener to Kanye West’s head. Or they can be cut from blanks at one of KeyMe’s five kiosks in the New York City area.

A short video introducing KeyMe:

What are your thoughts about this type of service?

13 Responses to “Wired: The App I Used to Break Into My Neighbor’s Home”

  1. Bob Caron says:

    When I see friends post pictures on the internet which clearly show their keys, I let them know that someone like me could make a duplicate from the picture. So now anyone can do it. It’s fascinating technology but the answer is education. Don’t lend your keys to anyone or take pictures of them.

  2. Cda says:

    I saw one on tv and the company was supposed to tighten their security, in identifying the requester to make sure they are legit.

    And I think they were going to require a full body shot

  3. Scott K. says:

    Just another reason to move towards a keyless system.

  4. Eric Rieckers says:

    This makes it a little too convenient to duplicate a key.

    • Mike Waddington says:

      …… and to think that with all the risks of data security, someone has just put all their details of their keys into some distant database, just waiting for a hacker, or for someone to steal your phone. OK for those who only think of convenience and not of SECURITY.
      It does not work well with dimple-cut keys, so maybe that is the answer for home security. (Yale tried a similar system in Europe called LaserKey, without the app – it flopped)

  5. Rick says:

    We have cut dozens of keys for customers over the years from just a photocopy that was faxed to the office in advance of of them stopping by to pick up their “New” key. It is really pretty easy to figure out the cuts once you are familiar with the particular manufacturers steps.

  6. Chuck says:

    I warn my friends in the same manner as Bob Caron.
    When I first started in this business, I served an old-fashioned apprenticeship under a master locksmith. I had to learn to do everything by hand, and I had to learn to reproduce keys by sight alone. I very rarely used car-opening tools, because if I could see the key inside the locked car, I could make one with my key clipper.
    Now, when friends ask me if I can make a key for them, I tell them to text a picture of the key to my cellphone. Then I make one for them.
    This KeyMe thing sounds like a good idea, but it’s wide open for abuse. Just wait until the kiosk’s databases get hacked!

  7. Pete Schifferli says:

    A good advertisement for restricted keyway and/or high security locks. If they can’t get the blanks, they can’t cut the keys!

  8. Brendan Daley says:

    I saw a very similar machine at Walmart recently, that even does auto keys.
    Don’t leave your car keys loose in cart while your shopping.
    The one I saw is called FASTKEY

  9. Dave C. says:

    I might be misinterpreting the article; but it says that the keys can be 3D Printed and mail ordered.

    “KeyMe was designed to let anyone photograph their keys and upload them to the company’s servers. From there, they can be 3-D printed and mail-ordered”.

    My concern that even restricted keyways could be duplicated using the 3D printing process.

  10. Mike Waddington says:

    I’m with Peter on this one – chose a restricted keyway and there is no problem. If you are really concerned then an electro-mechanical cylinder system will also do the same job, or use a dimple-cut key system with a parallel-sided key which has no easily-photographed “profile”.
    Yale pioneered a similar system of booths called LaserKey in the UK but it was never popular, although there was no “app” for it!

  11. Bob Caron says:

    I once had a customer that wanted a key that was difficult to duplicate but of course, he didn’t want to pay a lot. So, I shaved off a 16th of an inch off the bottom of the blank. The key was no longer sitting at the bottom of the plug and it did drop down just a bit. I re-pinned the cylinder with oversized pins. The key could no longer be easily duplicated without knowing how much material I took off the bottom.

  12. Safecrackin Sammy says:

    I cant believe this is allowed to happen in NYC with their licensing laws….. These people should be arrested for aiding burglarious activities as soon as NYPD gets out of the doughnut shop….

    People need to realize that the ten dollar deadbolt at the local hardware store is worth just that…. INVEST in the higher grade locks that truly protect your loved ones….

    And always keep your keys out of sight. In higher security institutions, its normal to have key covers so that your key is only visible when entering the lock… There is a reason for this…

    Never assume “It cant happen to me….”

Leave a Reply