Popularity of locksmith apps raises key concerns

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Tech-savvy thieves have a new way to unlock your safety. A surge in online locksmiths makes getting a copy of our keys super easy. But just how easy? Eyewitness News put this new technology to the test.

Tyler Huggins is a second generation locksmith. He’s perfected his craft over the years, but now cutting-edge technology may cut his job out of the picture. New smartphone apps let you duplicate a key just by taking two quick pics. The images are uploaded to a cyber locksmith, and in a few days the new key arrives in the mail.

“There’s a possible security risk,” says Huggins. “It’s not likely, not in my opinion, but it is there.”

That risk comes each time your keys are out of sight, like when you get your car repaired, go to a car wash, or hand your keys to a valet.

Eyewitness News tested this technology to see whether taking a couple of quick pictures could allow us easy access into a home. With the permission of Bethany Hashaway, a Call 12 for Action volunteer, we snapped two pictures of her house key – front and back – like a key-copying website instructed us.

The pictures were easily uploaded to keysduplicated.com. Six dollars and a few days later, we got our key in the mail. But remember, this key isn’t ours.

Jordan Meyer, the co-founder of keysduplicated.com, says the site does “have some security measures in place. We don’t think it’s a big threat.”

Meyer says he knows of no report of any thief using this technology to get a copy of someone’s keys. He also says his company has turned down suspicious key requests. He says they’ll turn down a request “if the image looks manipulated in any way. If it looks like it was taken from afar and zoomed in. If it looks like it’s a blurry walk-by shot.”

When we checked out the key we ordered, we were able to get right into Bethany’s house. Again, she knew that we would be coming. When we told her how easy it was to get a copy of her house key, Bethany called it “unsettling.”

So what can you do to protect yourself from this easy access? Jordan Meyer of keysduplicated.com says it’s easy.

“Just don’t leave your keys lying around. Just like you wouldn’t leave your credit card lying around.”

Especially when stealing your keys now only requires two clicks and a little cash.

Meyer says his site does not duplicate high security keys or car keys. But, he says they are looking into offer car key copies in the future.

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