MIT Researchers: Printable Keys Make Mechanical Locks Insecure

Students show 3D printing can be used to copy “difficult to duplicate” designs with easeSchlage Primus“If we show that mechanical locks are vulnerable to key duplication just by having a handful of numbers you can download off the internet, hopefully they ‘ll be phased out more quickly… Either that or make 3D printers illegal,” warns Eric Van Albert, a 21-year-old engineering student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in an interview with Forbes, following his keynote at Def Con 21.

Along with fellow student and researcher David Lawrence, Mr. Van Albert showed off a software tool that used scans from a flatbed scanner of a highly advanced “secure” key design to create a 3D model of the key and then duplicate it via online printing services Shapeways (nylon; $5 USD) and i.Materialise (titanium: $150 USD).

The researchers focused their efforts on Schlage Lock Comp.’s flagship secure-key solution, dubbed Primus.  Primus keys carry glaring “do not duplicate” message, which references Schlage’s patent on its two-tracked toothed key design, U.S. Patent No. 5,808,858.  The patent was filed in 1997 and granted in 1998.  The keys are typically used by law enforcement, mental health institutions, and military detention centers; they are even personally recommended by famous lockpick expert Marc Weber Tobias who wrote the much-referenced 1970 textbook on security Locks, Safes, and Security.

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