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MIT Hackers Copy High Tech Primus Keys with 3D Printing

By Wesley Fenlon

The next great heist movie will surely revolve around 3D printed keys.

When we talk about 3D printing, we're usually going on about how the technology can change the world for the better. But here's an application for 3D printing we hadn't thought much about: Crime.

As Vice writes, we've been using keys as a form of security for thousands of years. Some modern security companies design complex keys that you can't replicate at the local Home Depot's locksmith station. But you could, quite possibly, replicate them at home, with a 3D printer.

At this year's DEFCON conference, a pair of MIT students showed off the code to convert scans of keys into 3D printed objects. Using their method, even advanced security keys like the Schlage Primus could be duplicated. The kicker is that they don't even need to get hands on the original key. With a good enough photograph, they can convert a 2D image into a 3D model.

3D printed Primus keys. Photo credit: Forbes.

From there, it's simple to get the key printed. Don't have a 3D printer at home? No problem--the students sent their models off to some 3D printing services like Shapeways, which printed working replicas for them.

Mechanical keys are still used in high security situations--governments, banks, and so on. If those keys could be replicated, the average house or car key could, too. MIT's leading key hackers recommend the security conscious start migrating to electronic locks with cryptographic security. Of course, smart locks aren't exactly foolproof, either; the rest of Vice's post goes on to describe how easy some home automation systems are to hack into over the Internet.

There are systems out there that are tougher to crack then the mechanical lock. But is anything hack-proof? Electromechanical and biometric locks have been proven hackable by DEFCONs past. There's probably no solution that DEFCON's brightest minds can't crack. The key is likely choosing the solution that is too annoying--or expensive--to bother hacking.