CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - When it comes to be being careless with your keys, I'm as guilty as the next guy.
Without giving it a second thought, I usually toss my keys on my desk or kitchen counter and walk away.
What you may not know is that someone can make an exact copy of your house or car key, without the key ever leaving the room.
A company called KeyMe uses a "revolutionary new technology" to allow customers to scan keys to a mobile app. In just a matter of seconds, duplicates of virtually any type of key can then be printed for less than $10 at one thousands of KeyMe kiosks across the U.S. The company claims its copied keys are "more accurate than the original."
A KeyMe "Locksmith in a box" kiosk (Source: KeyMe)
"I don't think anyone creates these apps with intention of people manipulating them, and doing bad and horrible things with them," says internet and technology expert Katie Greer. "Even the most innocuous apps and technologies fall victim to this, unfortunately."
During a quick walk through our newsroom, we found close to a dozen Cleveland 19 News employees who left their keys unattended at their desks, including our 6 o'clock news producer Jim.
While Jim was away from his desk, my producer Misty removed Jim's house key from ring, placed it onto a white piece of paper, and scanned the key into the KeyMe app. She then visited a KeyMe kiosk, where in less than a minute, she had key to Jim's front door.
The question is: Will it work?
Carl breaking into Jim's house (Source: WOIO)
With Jim still at hard at work on his newscast, and with his wife Jodie's permission, we broke into the couple's home using the duplicate key that was made at the KeyMe kiosk.
The key worked without any issues.
We then waited to Jim to get home from work.
When he walked in the door, he was pretty shocked to see me in his kitchen.
Cleveland 19 Producer Jim surprised to see us in home (Source: WOIO)
"You're probably wondering what we're doing here," I asked. "Do you ever leave your keys on the desk at work and walk away?"
"Yeah," Jim replied.
I then explained how we were able to copy his key using the KeyMe app and break into his home, without his knowledge.
"Wow, well that's not good! That seems like a security concern. I sit them on a bar or something if I'm out, so they'd be easy to snag," said Jim.
So we successfully copied Jim's house key from his desk, but what about the thousands of people we found on social media proudly displaying keys -- in full view-- to their new home or vehicle? Could those keys be duplicated by a would be criminal?
Facebook users sharing photos of their new keys (Source: Facebook)
"I remember the day my husband an I took a picture of ourselves, of our four house that we bought together," recalls internet safety expert Katie Greer. "We were super excited, and I had to think back, 'Ohh, was I dangling my keys in that picture?' Because we don't think about that, right? We don't go under the assumption that, I have a picture of me holding up my key, and one day someone's gonna invent an app that can go to a hardware store and recreate this key."
We put this theory to the test with the KeyMe app - but it's not as easy as it looks.
Turns out, you need scans of both sides of the key, off the key ring and placed on a white piece of paper, to make a copy using KeyMe.
We actually found a photo of a key on a white sheet of paper posted on Facebook and used Photoshop to create a reverse image of the key. We then tried to duplicate the key at a KeyMe kiosk, but it didn't work.
We called KeyMe to ask why we couldn't get the key to print out at the kiosk. A customer service representative told us, "I apologize. Our review team let me know we wouldn't be able to duplicate the key with the information that you had submitted in photos. It looks like it may have been a scan of a photo itself, and we won't be able to produce the key with that information."
Aside from a team that reviews questionable keys, KeyMe says creating duplicates using their kiosks and mail-order service leaves a very visible and easily trackable digital footprint for the key owner and law enforcement. "A KeyMe account with a credit card, and viable e-mail address, needs to be created before anyone can upload and make a key duplicate at any of our 1,500 kiosks nationwide," says Greg Marsh, KeyMe's founder & CEO. "Additionally, our kiosk cameras capture video of every person printing a key duplicate."
Some traditional locksmiths aren't convinced they key kiosks are safe.
At E&A Locksmith, one of the biggest locksmiths in the area, they still make keys the old fashion way.
Owner Emir Abeid isn't sold on the key kiosks.
"Anyone can take pictures of the key and send it to them, and get that key cut from them," said Abeid. "That's wrong what they're doing, cause you're jeopardizing the people's life [sic]."
"KeyMe has made millions of keys and there have been no reported instances of KeyMe duplicates being used illegally," said Marsh. "No traditional key duplication process protects the key holder on so many levels. In an industry that traditionally has offered no security or accountability, we believe KeyMe completely changes the concept of copying your keys."
When my producer got locked out of her house, her husband, who was in another state at the time, was able to send her a copy of their house key through the KeyMe app, which she then had duplicated at a kiosk.
Even if you don't need spare key made right now, KeyMe gives users the option save scans of their keys to the cloud. A replacement key can later be printed at a kiosk in the event of a lock out. You can also order hundreds of vehicle and high-security keys, including most car key copies, by mail through KeyMe for a fraction of the dealership cost.
The company claims it uses commercial-grade security to protect key data, and doesn't store any identifiable information except for a customer's email address and password.
Despite KeyMe's safety precautions, Katie Greer says she personally wouldn't use the app.
"I tend to be hyper-aware of who has access to my information. Not just people that would abuse this information, but companies and data bases and servers. Where is this data base stored? Where is their server stored? I kind of go the nerd route about who has access to my information, and I don't need anyone having access to that outside of myself and my family."
While our attempt to duplicate a key from a Facebook post using KeyMe wasn't a success, Greer says locksmiths need to say on their toes because security breeches are bound to happen.
The key to this story is -- keep your keys from getting into the wrong hands. Protect them as you would your own wallet.
KeyMe says you should only share your key with people you trust. Always keep your keys out of sight - in a pocket, purse or drawer. And if you believe your key may have been compromised, be proactive in changing the lock.
If you want to let your friends on social media know that you bought a new house or car, Greer says there are better ways to do it than by posting photos of your keys.
Just be careful with whatever you decided to share.
"I like to be aware of a couple of things," said Greer. "For one, no license plates in view. Keep them out of the frame if possible. Secure your surroundings - no street names in view, no view of the number on your house. I think you can try to position (the photo) as such. Leave this kind of critical information out.