No cameras! MIT students 3D print ‘high security’ keys — all they need is a photo

Each year at Def Con, innovative hackers of all stripes demonstrate the latest, great, and cleverest new types of attacks, and this year one show-stealer wasn’t even about breaking into a computer.

Two MIT students, David Lawrence and Eric Van Albert, demonstrated their ability to 3D print, at relatively low cost, Schlage Primus’ high-security keys. Their method used a regular flatbed scanner which piped its pictures into software the two students developed. The software then generates a 3D model of the key which can be used to make perfect substitutes.

The duo claims their method does not even required the scanner.

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“All you need is a friend that works there, or to take a picture of their key, or even a picture of the key hanging off their belt,” Lawrence told Andy Greenberg. And they pointed out that traditional lock-and-key systems will be increasingly vulnerable to these kinds of attacks, which can quickly become a major security hazard not just for individual households but entire cities, such as when the New York Post printed a picture of a New York City fire elevator master key that opened up secure areas throughout the city.

Their ultimate suggestion is to ditch traditional keys altogether, opting instead for digital locks.