Why 3D Printed Skeleton Keys Will Leave High-Security Locks Vulnerable
Any motivated and knowledgeable lock picker could easily make a skeleton key using a 3D printer and use it to pick high security locks in just a few seconds.
Lock pickers Jos Weyers and Christian Holler are printing “bump” keys which resemble a normal key but are able to open millions of locks with a simple rap on its head by a hammer or mallet.
The two engineers are showing how the advancement of 3D printing has made it possible to bump open a large range of locks using a bit of software they created called Photobump and a 3D Printer.
If they know the depth of a keyhole and have a photo of it they can use their software and a 3D printer to easily make a bump key for opening that lock. The keys could even be requested from any 3D printing services and mail ordered as there are very few restrictions on printing keys.
Bumping isn’t a new trick and is commonly employed by filing a key blank into a set of teeth that rest against the pins in the tumbler of a lock. When the key is “bumped” with a mallet or hammer the teeth knock against the pins causing them to jump up outside of the locks cylinder. A practiced hand can apply torque to the key so as to catch the top halves of the pins as they jump up a few millimeters and in doing so they can open the lock.
Bump Keys used to be considerably harder to make for many high security locks as the blanks or templates were obscure and complex. Additionally most lock makers were careful to trademarked their key blank designs which prevented them from being sold to anyone outside a handful of verified customers. The advent of 3D printing has undermined this measure and made the replication of even complex blank keys much easier and keys that previously were unavailable even to key-milling machines can now be replicated with ease.
Fortunately Weyers and Holler aren’t interested in teaching their tricks to would be thieves and spies and haven’t made their software available. Instead they want to caution lock makers about the dangers 3D printable bump keys poses, and in doing so hope this will allow lock makers to take measure so as previously secure locks are not left vulnerable to this advancement in technology.
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