When you leave home or head to bed each night, you take the time to secure your house, your belongings and your family. Turning the key in the lock on your way out or securing the deadbolt before bed are routine matters for most people — regardless of how safe your neighborhood, town or city is.
But locking your home up doesn’t guarantee security. Home burglaries can happen even if your deadbolt is locked. Criminals are resourceful enough to get around the precautions we have in place — whether that’s kicking in the door or using a high-tech method to gain access to your home. That’s why it’s more important than ever to protect yours the right way.
Break-in methods are always evolving, and a recent paper published by researchers at the National University of Singapore revealed just how easy it could be for criminals to use advanced technology to access your home. All it could take are some audio recordings to create keys to your front door.
How hackers can use audio recordings to unlock your door
So, how do audio recordings translate to door keys? Well, the premise of the research paper is this: An audio recording of a key turning in a lock could theoretically be used to map the key’s shape, size and ridged pattern — which could then be used to create a replica that can give criminals access to your home.
Researchers used a program called SpiKey to analyze audio recordings of keys turning in locks. They found SpiKey accurately filtered through a database of over 330,000 key options to pinpoint three potential options to open the lock.
The SpiKey program works by analyzing recordings of the clicks that the key ridges make while interacting with the pins in the lock. It calculates the time elapsed between these clicks to discern the key’s unique pattern of ridges.
This information is then used to create a virtual model of the key your lock uses — which, in theory, could be 3D printed and used to unlock your home.
And a would-be intruder wouldn’t need fancy equipment to capture this sound, either.
“[SpiKey] significantly lowers the bar for an attacker by requiring only the use of a smartphone microphone to infer the shape of the victim’s key,” the research paper states.
But before you start to panic, it’s important to point out that while this theory is solid, it can only work if the attacker had a working knowledge of the type of lock and key you used to secure your home and if the speed at which you inserted and withdrew the key was consistent from start to finish.
What can I do about this?
While the results of this research are theoretical, the concern over home safety is real. You need to do whatever you can to safeguard your home against criminals. One easy, no-cost way? Keep a few keys on your keyring and jingle it a bit when you unlock your door. Audio hackers foiled!
Another tactic is to upgrade to a smart lock. Smart locks make it simple to lock and unlock your home without a key, some allow you to unlock your door remotely and they let you give access to guests in a snap.
Many of these locks can be used in tandem with other smart devices to monitor your home by video or with the help of a security monitoring service, and some smart locks can even be set up to automatically contact police in case of break-ins or suspicious behavior.
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