Keys over the Internet compromise your safety?

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Internet seems to have the key to everything nowadays, and thanks to new technology, it could help others get a key to your house.

New online locksmiths allow you to upload a picture of a key and get a working copy in the mail days later. Does that compromise your family's safety?

Websites like KeysDuplicated.com and smart phone applications like Key.Me are offering to cut copies of your house keys without you having to step foot outside your home. All you need is a couple bucks, a credit card, mailing address and picture of the front and back of a key.

After three to five business days, you're in.

But is the new technology also opening your home or business to bad guys and unlocking safety issues?

I tested the new technology out. My guinea pigs were co-workers at News4Jax. Why? Because a lot of our employees are guilty of leaving their keys out on their desk in the newsroom and then going away.

Evening news producer Nick Jones did it. He left the newsroom to "booth" a live show from the control room, leaving his house and car keys on his desk.

In just about 5 seconds, I took a picture of the front and back of his house keys. I left them where I found them and he had no idea. I told him what I did before I ordered the keys and he said we could test the keys out at his home and see if they actually worked.

A few days later a copy of Jones' key came in the mail. The key got me right in; it was a perfect match.

I asked him if the new way to cut keys was cool or creepy.

"Let's go cool and creepy," Jones said. "If it was someone else it'd be kind of weird, but I think I will think twice about leaving my keys on my desk next time."

Some traditional locksmiths say cutting keys online, without any face to face interaction, opens the door to abuse.

"It would be a concern," said locksmith Jason Wade, who's worked at Piner's Lock and Safe in Jacksonville for the past 9 years. Needless to say, he's not a fan of the new technology. Wade told me that if I came in with a picture of a key and asked for a copy he'd ask for my ID and then probably report me to his boss.

News4Jax's crime and safety analyst Gil Smith is also concerned.

"They can break into house if the person is sleeping, and not just homes," Smith, a former Jacksonville police officer told me. "Car keys can be duplicated, so can keys for storage sheds, office buildings."

But the co-founder of one of the companies says he hasn't heard of any crimes spawning from the cutting edge site.

Does he think your technology makes it too easy for the bad guys to get in other peoples' homes? Nope.

"We provide some traceability that's actually not present in the current locksmith system," said Jordan Meyer, of KeysDuplicated.com.

Meyer said he's never heard of anyone using his company's website with bad intentions, but if they tried, he'd cooperate fully with law enforcement. He added regular door locks have always been easy to pick and crooks can easily steal or make molds of keys, if they're that determined.

"Treat them like any other sort of, you know, credit card number or personal password," Meyer told me. "Don't leave them on your desk when you head into a meeting, don't give the full key chain when you're using a valet."

The California-based entrepreneur recommends installing a security system in your home or buying higher-end locks, with keys that can't be duplicated. But he says in general, a little common sense with keeping your keys out of sight will go a long way.

The company's website has a page dedicated to keeping your keys out of the wrong hands.

  • Don't flaunt it, even if you've got it: Keep keys in a pocket, purse, or anything else worthy of guarding your credit cards.
  • Don't set yourself up: Don't leave your keys unattended, even on your desk at work. You wouldn't keep a framed picture of your social security number on your desk, would you?
  • Beware the borrower: Be careful who you let borrow your keys, whether it's a friend, mechanic or valet. Only hand over the necessary keys, not your whole key-ring.
  • Amp up your security: Buy (or have your landlord buy) high security locks (Medeco, ASSA, Marks, and Mul-t-lock are your best bets) that aren harder duplicate or pick than the standard Schlage and Kwikset keys. Take it one step further and buy a security system to deter crime.
  • Be anti-social: With your keys, that is -- Don't post pictures of your keys on Twitter, Facebook, or other online service. Just don't do it. Not even if you have a cute new princess-themed key.


The developers of the KeyMe App also posted a response to security concerns on their website, Key.me

"Our mobile app requires keys be scanned on both sides on a white paper background from 4 inches away to prevent 'flyby' scans of your keys," according to the company's website. "We provide real-time notifications any time new activity occurs on your account so you can monitor & manage the security of your keys."

 

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