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posted by azrael on Tuesday September 02 2014, @01:46AM   Printer-friendly
from the opening-pandora's-box dept.

One of the unintended consequences of cheap 3-D printing is that any troublemaker can duplicate a key without setting foot in a hardware store. Now Andy Greenberg reports that clever lockpickers are taking that DIY key-making trick a step further printing a "bump key" that opens even high-security locks in seconds, without seeing the original key.

A bump key resembles a normal key but can open millions of locks with a carefully practiced rap on its head with a hammer. Using software they created called Photobump, Jos Weyers and Christian Holler say it's now possible to easily bump open a wide range of locks using keys based on photographs of the locks' keyholes. As a result, all anyone needs to open many locks previously considered "unbumpable" is a bit of software, a picture of the lock's keyhole, and the keyhole's depth. "You don’t need much more to make a bump key," says Weyers. "Basically, if I can see your keyhole, there’s an app for that."

Weyers and Holler want to warn lockmakers about the possibility of 3-D printable bump keys so they can defend against it. Although Holler will discuss the technique at the Lockcon lockpicking conference in Sneek, the Netherlands, next month, he doesn't plan to release the Photobump software publicly and is working with police in his native Germany to analyze whether printed bump keys leave any forensic evidence behind.

Ikon maker Assa Abloy argues 3-D printing bump keys to its locks is an expensive, unreliable trick that doesn’t work on some locks whose keys have hidden or moving parts but Weyers argues that instead of dismissing 3-D printing or trying to keep their key profiles secret, lockmakers should produce more bump resistant locks with electronic elements or unprintable parts.

"The sky isn't falling, but the world changes and now people can make stuff," says Weyers. "Lock manufacturers know how to make a lock bump-resistant. And they had better."

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  • (Score: 2) by q.kontinuum on Tuesday September 02 2014, @05:56AM

    by q.kontinuum (532) on Tuesday September 02 2014, @05:56AM (#88384) Journal

    Nor do I :-) But it wasn't even obscurity. The profile can be seen from the outside. The interesting thing about the article is that basically the potential trouble maker new all along how the key was supposed to look like, but usually the effort to build one would have been prohibitive. Now it's a child game.

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  • (Score: 5, Informative) by TheLink on Tuesday September 02 2014, @06:20AM

    by TheLink (332) on Tuesday September 02 2014, @06:20AM (#88386) Journal

    There are mechanical keys/locks systems that aren't crap: []

    Why not use those instead? Padlocks using this tech seem fairly common where I live.

    • (Score: 2) by q.kontinuum on Tuesday September 02 2014, @11:23AM

      by q.kontinuum (532) on Tuesday September 02 2014, @11:23AM (#88447) Journal

      Thanks for the link. Sounds interesting.

      Registered IRC nick on qkontinuum
    • (Score: 1) by My Silly Name on Tuesday September 02 2014, @02:47PM

      by My Silly Name (1528) on Tuesday September 02 2014, @02:47PM (#88515)
      Chubb also make make locks similar in principle to the Abloy mechanisms in your link. (Expensive, though.)

      Another interesting design is the Bramah [] lock, which despite its origins in the 18th century is still pretty damn hard to pick, and is definitely resistant to crude bumping techniques.

      Unfortunately, no matter how groovy the lock technology we use, there's always the thermorectal method of obtaining a key. In my case, having abandoned big cities and now living in the boonies in Tasmania, I almost never lock my front door at all.
    • (Score: 2) by LoRdTAW on Tuesday September 02 2014, @08:18PM

      by LoRdTAW (3755) on Tuesday September 02 2014, @08:18PM (#88626) Journal

      Picking is not an issue but disc key copying is actually quite easy. The MTA uses these locks in the subway and perhaps other places to lock up just about anything. I had a friend in high school who was NYC subway obsessed and his neighbor was an MTA employee. Dont ask me how but he got ahold of the disc tumbler key and the lever keys used on the various doors and compartments of the subway cars. He secretly made clay casts and hand copied them using nails and sheet metal. The disc tumbler key was made from a nail with a flat filed on its length and then grooves for the discs filed at an angle into the half. The lever tumbler keys (aka old timey skeleton keys) he already made from bent sheet metal brazed to a nail by making a clay pressing from the slot on the door. He just had to figure out the rejection notch which was surprisingly dead center square and easy to cut.

      The both of us had MTA keys we would show off by opening the doors between cars and unlocking gates with the disc locks. We were young and dumb but it was quite fun. But you had to be careful so we kept mischief to a minimum as that was jail right there. We only unlocked stuff to show off and stole a disc lock to lock our bikes with. Those locks were super strong. A solid steel uni body and a thick hardened shackle. Locking was simple: turning the key 90 degrees twisted a cam that pushed two steel bearings outward into grooves on each side of the shackle. There was no push to snap the lock, you had to turn the key to lock and unlock it. Impossible to break the lock by hammer, chisel or bolt cutter. You were better of cutting the chain or what ever the chain was around unless you had a torch. Master locks are garbage next to these things.