[Ben] and his associates over at the University of California at San Diego came up with a way to duplicate keys using a picture of them. They developed an algorithm that uses measurements from known key blanks to extrapolate the bitting code. Because the software is measuring multiple points it can correct the perspective of the photo when the key is not photographed on a flat surface, but from an angle.
They went so far as to test with cell phone cameras and using a telephoto lens from 195 feet away. In most cases, correct keys were produced within four guesses. Don’t miss their wonderful writeup (PDF) detailing how key bitting works, traditional covert duplication methods, and all the details of their process. The lack of available code prevents us all from playing secret agent (or felon) with this idea but [Ben] did mention that if there is sufficient interest he might release it.
Lock bumping showed us how weak our security is, but this is a bit scary.
[Steffen Wernéry] has published a video of the impressioning contest at LockCon. We learned about key impressioning at this year’s HOPE conference. You start the process by inserting a key blank into the lock. By turning the lock until it stops and then moving the key up and down you create marks on the blank’s face. Take a file to those marks to remove the extra material and then repeat the process. Once the pins are set properly, they’ll stop leaving marks on the blank. It takes a lot of skill to do this right, but you end up with a perfectly functional key. [Barry Wels] managed to win the competition in 5:30 with second place coming in at 6 minutes.
The Open Organisation Of Lockpickers (TOOOL) is planning a new annual gathering for lockpickers. October 9-12th they will hold the first ever LockCon in Sneek, Netherlands. The event was spawned from the Dutch Open lockpicking championships, but they’ve decided to expand beyond just competition into a full conference. This year the conference is limited to just 100 lockpickers, technicians, manufacturers, hackers, and law enforcement members. They’ll compete in picking competitions, safe manipulation, and key impressioning.
After a week of wondering, Red Hat has confirmed that someone broke in and compromised their security. Although It doesn’t appear the attacker was able to retrieve the passphrase used to sign Fedora packages, the team is switching to new keys. In a separate intrusion the attacker tampered with and signed OpenSSH packages for RHEL. While it’s good to get the full story, no one is happy how long it took Red Hat to release these details.
Slate is running an interesting article about taking new security approaches to lock vulnerabilities. In the past, lock makers such as Medeco have been able to quietly update their product lines to strengthen their security, but as movements such as Locksport International gain popularity and lock picking videos on YouTube become dime a dozen, lock makers can no longer rely on security through obscurity. It’s no question that an increased interest in this field helps lock manufacturers to create more secure products, but because patching these flaws often means changing critical features of the lock, it becomes a very expensive game of cat-and-mouse.
Traditional lock picking has employed the use of picksets, like the credit card sized setgiven out sold at The Last HOPE, but more recent methods of lock hacking have used bump keys or even magnets. However, as manufacturers make their locks less susceptible to picking and bumping, not even high-security locks will ward off someone determined enough to create a copy of the key, either by observing the original or using impressioning, as [Barry Wels] covered in a recent talk at HOPE 2008.
[Barry Wels] is well known for his lockpicking talks, but this year he wanted to talk about how he copies high security keys. If a key blank is available, you could make a copy just by viewing the original. High security keys generally have profiles with more side cuts, which means you can guess at how deep a specific pin is by observing how many cuts it crosses. He also showed that you could imprint your arm with the key and use that as a guide. If a blank isn’t available, you could fill a similar key with solder and file that down.
[Barry] showed two different kits for casting keys. The first used soft clay in a clam shell to make an imprint of the original key. The form is then filled with a low melting point alloy (probably Wood’s metal) to create the new key. A second style uses a metal form and two part silicone to create the mold. This method works for most high security keys, but will not work on keys with active elements like sliders or magnets.
Finally, [Barry] talked about his favorite method: impressioning. Unlike picking a lock, when you’re done impressioning you have a funtional key. You start with key blank and file off the top layer. Place the blank in the lock and turn it till it jams. Then, you rock the key up and down. Observing the key under light you’ll see a small mark where each pin is. File a bit where the marks appear and repeat the process. You can’t use too much force or you might break the blank. This also works on dimple keys and as this video shows, laser cut keys. [Barry] highly recommends the impressioning book by [Oliver Diederichsen].
It looks like Uhlmann & Zacher have developed a patch to keep locks from being opened using a ring of magnets. In addition, the lock now logs successful entries without credentials in case something like this comes up again.