Via this recent piece in Wired, we are introduced to a breakthrough in technological services that could make everyone's home or office immeasurably less secure and give almost everyone with a cellphone the opportunity to become a burglar.
Extra dividend: the purveyors of these services think they're doing the world a favor. Maybe they are, but there are obvious downsides.
The services "let you upload your coded chunks of metal to the cloud, where you can access and duplicate them, or even email them to a friend staying at your place.
"Such services also enable jerks like me to steal your keys any time they get a moment alone with them."
He's right about that. The services tout their security safeguards, but these have glaring limitations.
And how often is your keychain out of your control? It could be very often. You leave your keys with valet attendants, drop them on your office desk and wander off to a meeting, leave them lying around when the cleaners are in the house. For starters.
"Keep your keys out of sight," KeyMe CEO Greg Marsh advises in a blog post. "Whether it’s your pocket, purse, or drawer, don’t let anyone you don’t trust see them. Wearing keys on the outside of your pants, placing them on a table top in plain view, or giving to a valet provides the potential for unauthorized access."
KeysDuplicated similarly advises, "It's always dangerous to leave your keys unattended. Someone could imprint them on clay or measure them with a key gauge then copy them at a hardware store."
But this advice misses the point. These keymaking services, as Wired's Greenberg observes, "have democratized the security threat." They make it seem like a quaint luxury to have been able once upon a time to take your eyes off your keys for even a moment. Do that now, and you've given almost anyone near you the opportunity to invade your home or office.
It's unlikely these services will institute better security safeguards without pressure from regulators. They'll have to figure out how to ensure that every key order comes from an authorized owner. Are there ways to do that? Make them responsible for damages caused by unauthorized copies, and they'll find a way.
It's also possible that locks and keys will themselves have to change--incorporating electronic chips, say, that prevent them from being duplicated without authorization. It's technology, and it marches on.