How safe are your keys? 3D printing brings new security menace

3D printing brings new security menace, one good photograph could be all a criminal needs

The relatively new technology of 3D printing has come with all kinds of moral and legal baggage, but now it appears that it can be used by criminals to evade security by copying your keys.

Experts now say that a photograph of a set of keys is all that a “real world” hacker needs to make a working copy which can be used to break into premises, and a national security systems company says this opens up whole new worries for businesses and householders alike. says that now the possibility that a sufficiently skilled person can print out a commonly-used key for pin tumbler locks means that people should be even more conscious of their security in an increasingly technological world.

“It’s the modern equivalent of the thief taking an impression of your front door key in clay,” says spokesperson Mark Hall, “Only instead of the tobacco tin and the rudimentary knowledge of metal casting, it’s all about long camera lenses and rendering software.”

According to, the technology exists now for the tech-savvy criminal to 3D print your keys right now.

  • Real-life hackers could use various methods to copy keys, but the most worrying for everyday keyholders is the one known as “teleduplication”.
  • Teleduplication is the use of a long lens camera to take a photograph of a set of keys. Digital cameras are of such high definition, a usable image can be obtained from an alarming distance
  • Current 3D technology printing in metal or polycarbonate creates a duplicate key strong enough not to snap in a modern lock.
  • For victims, Kaspersky says, the losses could be immeasurable.

“This may sound like the kind of thing you’ll see in a crime caper movie where George Clooney is trying to rob a Las Vegas casino,” says’s Mark Hall “But the truth of the matter is that the technology is already out there in the wild and available to whoever wants to try their luck.”

To prove it, printable master keys for major brands of luggage are already available on the internet, meaning that travellers are already at risk from opportunist thieves at stations and airports.

“This opens up all kinds of new worries for householders and business owners alike,” says Ratcliffe.

Despite these developments, there is a defence against this kind of tactic, says, and it involves good old-fashioned security.

Hall says that companies and householders should compare their keys to their computer passwords and guard them at all costs.

“That means not showing them to any old stranger, not leaving them out on desks, and not having a lock system so simple that a little bit of application and guesswork can break it,” he says.

The best way of ensuring security is to have back-up systems in case.

“Companies which rely on just a single lock are asking for trouble,” says Hall, “Using the computer example yet again, the best security is when there’s a second factor involved. That makes even the best cloned key worthless.” recommends that any of the following should be considered:

  • More than one lock on access doors
  • CCTV systems guarding entrances and vulnerable points
  • Modern alarm systems
  • Security guard cover if budget allows

“We know that many people won’t be able to afford enhanced systems,” Hall says, “But even very minor changes to your security regime can significantly decrease the risks.”

“Peace of mind comes from thinking about your security, both online and in the real world.”