Lynchburg, VA – We all want to be safe in our homes.But new technology could be making it much more difficult to keep our homes secure, sometimes turning the very items we use to keep threats out against us.
Think you know what copying keys looks like?
Think again. The internet makes copying a key essentially just a few clicks away. All you have to do is take pictures of the key and through an app, companies like Keys Duplicated can make a copy and deliver it right to you.
The cost is dependent on the company, but ranges from $6 to $10. Other apps like KeyMe will digitized your key, giving you a code to take to a locksmith to duplicate.
No key necessary.
“It does make people vulnerable,” Lynchburg Police lieutenant Malcolm Booker.
John Hawkins is a trained locksmith and owner of Hawkins Lock & Key, a mom-and-pop shop in the Hill City. His business has been duplicating keys the old-fashioned way for 65 years. Hawkins says “it doesn’t take but a minute or two to cut a key.”
He’s not sure of this new, digital approach. When asked why he thought someone would rather copy keys online than go to a local locksmith, especially if they’re locked out of their home, Hawkins said he didn’t “see any reason why they would.”
But Keys Duplicated co-founder Jordan Meyer says business is good.
“We’ve seen that people really value not only the convenience of being able to order keys, kind of wherever they are, but also just that piece of mind knowing that they have a back-up, a digital back-up of the keys,” said Meyer
ABC 13 news reporter Kody Leibowitz copied one of his keys, a mailbox key, through Keys Duplicated’s app. He took two pictures, entered his name and email address and hit send.
Five business days later, the key arrived. Convenient? Maybe. But what if he took pictures of someone else’s key? Or if a thief took a picture of his key while he wasn’t looking?
“There’s always security concerns for anything stored online but what we try to do is really get rid of the information that can be identifiable, especially names and addresses where these keys are being shipped,” said Meyer.
When we tested the new mail key, it didn’t work.
“Sometimes the smaller mailbox keys are difficult,” wrote Meyer in an email, “because there is a ‘reverse’ blank that the computer misses.”
He also said that same thing could happen at any hardware store. But other news stations were apparently luckier with their attempts and opening doors with duplicate keys they had made online.
“We have a couple of things internally that we look for just to try to screen keys that look like they might be taken in a suspicious fashion,” said Meyer. “In the end we can’t necessarily protect against copying against somebody else’s key, in fact that is something that is legal to do just like you make a copy of a key when you’re a renter though you don’t own that rental unit.”
“That’s certainly where law enforcement is concerned about this new technology. The possibility of it being used for those reasons, for criminal,” said Booker.
The best advice: protect your keys.
“If it’s a deep concern, you can always buy a patented key security lock where nobody can make a copy of the key even if they have the key,” said Hawkins.
“Treat your keys like you would any other sensitive information like a password and social security number. Keep them in your pocket. Don’t wear them on karabiner or outside your jeans. Don’t leave them on your desk,” said Meyer.
“It only takes a split second for someone to take advantage of that,” said Booker.
Another way inside your home is through your own security cameras. Hackers can tap right into live camera feeds and even send the footage straight to the worldwide web for all to see. Insecam housed more than 70,000 unsecured webcams worldwide, more than 11,000 in the US, as reported during a November ABC News Special Report.
The owner shut the site down a day later. But that doesn’t mean the threat is gone. Hackers are still out there and homeowners often help them, by using their default logins and passwords, some as easy as admin-admin.
If you haven’t changed the password, extremely easy. I mean just a matter of them finding it and poking around until they find one and once they do, it’s just simply logging in the default password,” said Lonnie Rose of Rose Computers. “If you’re setting up a camera yourself, be sure to change the log-in name and password and use a secure password like you would for your computer or internet access device.”
Lt. Booker says that there hasn’t been any known incident of someone abusing either technology in the area, hacking into security cameras or duplicating someone’s key online and subsequently breaking into that home. Still, as technology continues to advance, he says people need to be more aware of their surroundings and continue to take necessary steps to protect themselves.
Several various home safety tips from U.S. Department of State:
All entrances, including service doors and gates, should have quality locks–preferably deadbolt. Check your:
Sliding Glass Door
Swimming Pool Gate
Guest House Door(s).
Don’t leave keys “hidden” outside the home. Leave an extra key with a trusted neighbor or colleague.
Keep doors locked even when you or family members are at home.
Have window locks installed on all windows. Use them.
Lock louvered windows–especially on the ground floor.
Have locks installed on your fuse boxes and external power sources.
For even more tips to help protect yourself, check out some information from Allstate and SecurityChoice.com.