In most cities, people generally lock their doors before heading out on errands. There are very few places where it's safe to leave your door unlocked anymore.
Some folks even upgrade to highly secure locks to better protect their family and their valuables. But 3-D printing technology could change that.
An unintended side effect of the phenomenal 3-D printing technology is that parts and items are more easily customizable and available for a fraction of the previous costs. This means that burglars could have easy access to your home with 3-D printed "bump keys," and you would be none the wiser.
A pair of lock pickers and engineers, Jos Weyers and Christian Holler, have designed a 3-D printer software called Photobump and they claim that with just a picture of the keyhole they can create a bump key for locks that were previously labeled "unbumpable."
As a result, all anyone needs to open many locks previously considered “unbumpable” is a bit of software, a picture of the lock’s keyhole, and the keyhole’s depth, says Weyers, a competitive lock picker and security consultant. “You don’t need much more to make a bump key,” Weyers told an audience at the Hackers On Planet Earth conference, where he first hinted at the key printing software last month. “Basically, if I can see your keyhole, there’s an app for that.”
Take a look at Holler bumping an Abus E20 six pin security lock. His 3-D printed bump key is printed for an Ikon SK6 and filed to create carefully contorted blanks that regular key-milling machines can't make. It takes him less than 10 seconds to bump the lock.
Creating cheap and easily affordable bump keys for criminals is not what these engineers had in mind. Holler and Weyers claim they wanted to demonstrate how easy it is to create a bump key for even "unbumpable" locks to put pressure on lock makers to make their products more secure.
Ultimately, the two lock pickers say they’re trying to show lock companies and their customers that 3-D printing has changed lock picking in ways that may leave previously secure locks vulnerable. After all, many lock makers seem to rely on their keys’ restricted shapes—their “key profile”—as their sole defense against tricks like bumping. “It’s a kind of false sense of security,” says Holler. “If a protected profile is your only protection, you should be aware that’s no longer enough ...
Weyers argues that instead of dismissing 3-D printing or trying to keep their key profiles secret, lock makers should produce more bump-resistant locks with electronic elements or unprintable parts. “The sky isn’t falling, but the world changes and now people can make stuff,” says Weyers. “Lock manufacturers know how to make a lock bump-resistant. And they had better.”
If you're unfamiliar with lock-picking jargon, a bump key is a skeleton key that's been specially crafted by filing the teeth on a blank to rest against the tumblers inside of a lock. These bump keys are generic enough that they can be fit into a wide number of locks, and with a practiced hand and a special mallet your door could be unlocked in less than 30 seconds.
This animated GIF shows how a bump key works. With a tap, the key is forced into the lock and effectively bumps the top tumblers out of the locked position. A skilled lock pick will apply torque to the key to keep the tumblers out of the locked position and open the lock.