Key cutting apps could put your home at risk

Simple smartphone photo could open your neighbor's door

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)  - Don't give up the keys to your kingdom.

It's not just online security that you need to worry about anymore.

Now, cybercriminals can potentially invade your home. All they need is your house key.

It used to be that duplicating a key required a locksmith to cut a copy from the original.

Not anymore.

A number of online locksmiths have been popping up in recent years.

Others can be accessed using smartphone apps.

All you need now is a digital copy to create a physical copy of the key.

This cutting edge technology has made key duplication as easy as snapping a photo with your smartphone and then uploading the images.

A copy of the key is then mailed back to you.

"Something like that there's a high probability of theft," said Greg Dziuba of Advanced Lock & Key in the Town of Tonawanda.

It's actually simple to do.

Just snap a couple of pictures with your cell phone and then upload the images to the online locksmith of your choice.

You only need access to the keys long enough to take a picture of the front and back.

Some say this could open the door for people with bad intentions.

"Anybody can send you a picture of a key and tell you it's for their home. But there's no way to possibly track it," said Daniel Dziuba of Advanced Lock & Key.

News 4 Investigates decided to put the new technology to the test.

The Investigates Team borrowed a set of keys belonging to News 4 Digital Content Producer Emily Lenihan.

It took less than 20 seconds to snap two photos (front and back) of the house key.0A76212ABF6D422BB76B55F19EB7561F

The digital photos were then uploaded to KeysDuplicated.com, one of the sites offering the online copying service.

The software program quickly analyzes the photos to make sure they're good enough to make a copy.

Remember, the key doesn't belong to us. But with two digital photos and $6.00, we're that much closer to getting a physical copy of Emily's house key.

Jordan Meyer, co-founder of KeysDuplicated.com, says his company has a lot of security measures in place.

"We do look for keys that might have been tampered, photoshopped, etcetera. Maybe taken at a distance with a telephoto lens things like that. It's not a 100 percent foolproof," said Meyer.

KeysDuplicated.com also requires customers to use a valid non-prepaid credit card along with an email and mailing address.

High security locks offer added protection

Story continues after video

APP USERS | Tap here to watch video with Jordan Meyer, co-founder of KeysDuplicated.com

Some say those measures offer limited protection against tech-savvy thieves.

"I could have your house key. Take a picture of it, front and back.  Send in my credit card and house address and there would be no way for them to know that wasn't actually my key," said Greg Dziuba.

But Jordan Meyer argues that it's more traceable to use his service than going to a local locksmith.

"You could just use a key gauge which is completely untraceable. Locksmiths have actually been able to make a key from a picture and they don't have that kind of paper trail that we might have," said Meyer.

It took about a week, but Emily's house key arrived in the mail.

News 4 Investigates wasted no time running over to see if the key would open her front door.

And guess what?

It worked without a problem.

Emily, who was told we would be coming over with the key, was very surprised to see a News 4 crew walk through her front door.

"The key worked. I can't believe it. I'm shocked," said Lenihan. "It makes me scared because you should feel secure in your own home, and you don't think your cell phone is going to put you in harm's way when it comes to being safe at home."

Jordan Meyer recommends that you never leave your keys unattended, or hand them over to strangers.

"Don't leave them on your desk when you go to the bathroom. Don't give them to a valet. Make sure if you are giving a key to someone that you completely trust that person," said Meyer.

For an added layer of protection there are special high security patent protected keys that require your signature and can only be made in the store.

"The lock comes with a unique key sold to us where we create a chart and your own user number on the key that we coin onto the key," said Dan Dziuba Jr. "You and only you are authorized to make the key."

Unique keys require signature

APP USERS | Tap here to watch video with Daniel Dziuba from Advanced Lock & Key

How you can be safe

Tips from KeysDuplicated.com

  • Keep keys in a pocket, purse, or anything else worthy of guarding your credit cards.
  • Don't leave your keys unattended, even on your desk at work.
  • 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.
  • Buy (or have your landlord buy) high security locks
  • Don't post pictures of your keys on Twitter, Facebook, or other online services.

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