Here’s an interesting thought – the most widely used security system on earth might go down in flames this year because of a certain category of devices becoming much more common – personal cameras directly connected to computers, that can record things 24/7.
So what exactly is the big problem?
Most keys can be replicated from a single photo. So if your keyring ever end up in the viewpoint of somebody who uses Google Glass (or any other camera device that can capture images constantly), then most of your keys can be replicated in a matter of minutes.
To really show you what the problem is, some animations of how mechanical locks can help you to understand why avoiding it is hard.
Here is one video for one lock type; http://vimeo.com/20193459
And an animation of the most common type: http://1.asset.soup.io/asset/4011/5537_0d02.gif
As you can see very clearly, it is the outside of the keys that interact with the inside of the locks. And this outside can be caught on picture by all these cameras. So, how well can keys be reconstructed from photos? If it is hard, this isn’t much of a problem, right?
“Child’s play”. That easy. Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2008/nov/14/key-photograph-key-cutting
Edit: Original source: http://vision.ucsd.edu/~blaxton/sneakey.html
A pair of Google Glass, linked to a CNC machine that can cut out keys from a metal block, or even just a 3D printer that use plastic, is enough to quickly copy keys with minimal effort. Add image recognition directly in the glasses that even instructs you how to get a good view of the keys, and the user don’t even have to puch any buttons anymore, he just has to turn his head right.
So what can we do?
There are still a few types of lock types that in theory could be mostly safe. Round keys, that looks like hollow cylinders (if the key pattern is on the inside), could be safe from cameras, simply because it is hard to get a photo from the right angle and with the right light to replicate it. But due to how these locks are designed mechanically, they are often easy to “lock pick”, so you can unlock them without any key.
Then we have the digital locks. RFID locks (too many of these are insecure, Mifare RFID cards and others can be replicated, but some are secure), biometry (incredibly insecure in most cases, most types REQUIRES trained armed guards to be secure against “spoofing”), smartcards (generally pretty secure) and some more. The problem with many of them is that they are hard to use, run on batteries or stops working when there’s a blackout.
Whatever we switch to must be easy to use and work reliably and securely. Personally I am biased towards digital locks, but I know there are plenty of obstacles before we can use them everywhere.