Criminals can now 3D print your house keys from a Facebook photo

Advances in technology comes with many advantages, but there can be a number of downsides too - including threats to security.

Experts are warning that 3D printing technology can now be used by criminals to help break into people’s homes, and a photo of some house keys is all that is needed.

Printed house keys

A photograph of a set of keys is all that a hacker would need to make a working copy that could then be used to break into premises, according to national security systems company Protecting.co.uk.

The company has warned that something as simple as a Facebook photo could allow a skilled hacker to print out a commonly-used key for pin tumbler locks using 3D technology.

Hackers can use a method known as teleduplication, which involves using a long lens camera to take a photo of a set of keys. As digital cameras are of such high definition, a usable image can easily be obtained from a lengthy distance.

Current 3D technology printing in metal or polycarbonate can create a duplicate key that is strong enough not to snap in a modern lock.

Company spokesperson, Mark Hall, explained: “It’s the modern equivalent of the thief taking an impression of your front door key in clay.

“Only instead of the tobacco tin and the rudimentary knowledge of metal casting, it’s all about long camera lenses and rendering software.

Printable master keys for major brands of luggage are also available on the internet, meaning travellers are already at risk from opportunist thieves in places such as train stations and airports.

How to stay protected

Despite these developments in technology, it is possible to defend against such risks with some simple security measures.

Hall advises that households and companies should take a similar stringent approach to protecting their keys as they would with computer passwords that are in place to guard against hackers.

This means avoiding leaving keys out on display and implementing a more complex locking system that can’t be broken by guesswork, as well as putting a back-up system in place.

Protecting.co.uk recommends having more than one lock on access doors and installing modern alarm systems to improve security.

Companies are also advised to use CCTV systems to guard entrances and vulnerable points, and to put security guards in place if budget allows.

Hall added: "Using the computer example yet again, the best security is when there's a second factor involved. That makes even the best cloned key worthless.

"We know that many people won't be able to afford enhanced systems, but even very minor changes to your security regime can significantly decrease the risks.

"Peace of mind comes from thinking about your security, both online and in the real world."