Is the cyberspace locksmith secure?

Online key making services only need a picture to start

BEAVERTON, Ore. (KOIN 6) — For 35 years keys have been made the traditional way at Davis Locksmith in Beaverton.

“We have a 100% guarantee,” said Lance Peoples, the owner of Davis Locksmith.  “We stamp our name and number on every key that leaves the building. If it doesn’t work, bring it back. If we can’t figure out the problem, we will cut the key back to code.”

Matt Segerdahl of Aloha uses the service to copy keys securely for his business.

“I think it’s always best to go get them done, with the key in hand,” Segerdahl said.

But now there is a new way to get keys made without setting foot in a store. The service works by using your smart phone to send in your key template with a snap and click.

However, police say that thieves can do the same thing, meaning you might want to keep your keys under lock and key.

A key gets duplicated (KOIN 6 News, file)
A key gets duplicated (KOIN 6 News, file)

The locksmith in cyberspace

With the snap of a photo, you can get your key duplicated online through a locksmith in cyberspace.

KeysDuplicated.com advertises on its website, “No time for the hardware store?  Get your keys delivered to you.”

“I’m not sure how secure that is,” said Segerdahl.

“There is no way to validate that that is their key.” said Peoples. “Just anybody could send me a picture and I would not be making a key securely for somebody rather than if somebody came in, face-to-face.”

Portland police have questions, too.

“With any technology, there’s always a dark side,” said PPB Sgt. Pete Simpson. “That can be used by crooks or stalkers or ex- spouses to make copies of keys that you don’t want them to have.”

Simpson points out the places where someone with ill-intentions could snap a picture of your key — the gym, a valet station, a party or at work.

Online key duplication sites can make a key from a smart phone picture (KOIN 6 News, file)
Online key duplication sites can make a key from a smart phone picture (KOIN 6 News, file)

A KOIN 6 News test

KOIN 6 News tested the process with three keys that were sitting on workers desks, unattended – a car key and two house keys. One was stamped, “Do Not Duplicate.”

After uploading the shots to KeysDuplicated.com sent an email with an update. The car key was rejected because the style couldn’t be copied, but the two house keys sailed through.

Within days, the keys came in the mail in white envelopes.

KOIN 6 News producer Jeff Merrill was aware one of his keys was used in the test. He told his family ahead of time that a KOIN 6 News crew would drop by at some point.

The key received online opened the door to Merrill’s house, where his wife, Allie and their daughter, Ava, were startled.

“I’m shocked, that’s really scary,” said Allie Merril. “It’s terrifying. Just that thought that someone could make a duplicate of a key by taking a photo and get into my house,” she said.  “I mean I have a child, you know. I just don’t feel that that should be legal.”

Jordan Meyer, the Chief Operating Officer of KeysDuplicated.com in San Francisco, told KOIN 6 News security is one of their main issues.

“We require both the front and the back picture of the key which makes sure that people can’t just walk by a table while somebody has their keys out and snap a picture, or get it from afar from a telephoto lens,” said Meyer. “They really have to get a good focus picture in, front and back.”

Meyer said a credit card is also mandatory.

“We require some sort of a paper trail. It has to be a valid non-prepaid credit card,” said Meyer. “Then we have email address and mailing address that we will send to and we keep parts of those on file, so there is some sort of traceability, mostly the credit card information.”

generic-keys-key-ring-01202015
Keys on a ring (KOIN 6 News, file)

When Meyer was told KOIN 6 News used a photographer’s credit card to make the purchase while he wasn’t around, he said there “isn’t too much more of a safeguard we can do.

“Even if you were, say, to submit a photo ID with the keys you submitted, there is nothing that is linking your photo ID to the actual house keys.”

Portland police feel that may give customers a false sense of security. “We know that credit card theft and fraud is rampant throughout this country,” said Simpson.

Do Not Duplicate

As for that “Do Not Duplicate” key that was duplicated, the one that opened the door to a second home in the KOIN 6 News test?

“‘Do Not Duplicate’ is actually a pretty misleading term,” said Meyer. “Often times this is a landlord situation where they just buy bulk key blanks and cut them. The Associated Locksmiths of America actually have a provision that says, ‘just treat that key like  you would any other key’ because it is a misleading statement.”

Meyer said for more security, invest in a hyper-security key like Segerdahl did at Davis Locksmith.

His key can only be copied at Davis Locksmith. They are the only business allowed to have the computer code needed to cut the key on a special machine.

Meyer said that since KeysDuplicated.com launched in August, however, he said more online key duplicating businesses are popping up on the Internet.

Portland police also suggest you keep your keys hidden, avoid using a keychain that contains your address, and keep pictures of your keys offline.

More Safety tips from KeysDuplicated.com

  • 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 are harder to 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.

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