Article taken from www.newscientist.com by Jacob Aron, technology reporter
(Image: Steven Puetzer/Getty)
High-security police handcuffs can be opened with keys fashioned by a 3D printer, potentially giving criminals an easy way out of incarceration.
Unlike the lock on your front door, handcuffs don’t use individually patterned keys, so their security relies on handcuff manufacturers limiting the commercial availability of keys. Now, a German security researcher, who goes only by the name “Ray” and previously advised the German police on handcuff technology, has found a high-tech loophole – print your own.
Speaking at the Hackers on Planet Earth conference in New York, Ray said he acquired a key for UK firm Chubb’s handcuffs from eBay, where they occasionally appear for sale, and got hold of a German Bonowi key from an unnamed source. He measured them with callipers and created a 3D computer model with the exact dimensions for each key, which he then reproduced using both a laser cutter and a 3D printer. He also tried to duplicate the keys of a third company, the German Clejuso, but found the plastic key wasn’t strong enough to open the handcuffs.
Ray now plans to upload the Chubb key to Thingiverse, a 3D-printing repository, but says he won’t share the Bonowi or Clejuso key as they are harder to obtain. It probably won’t be long until the keys reach controversial file-sharing site The Pirate Bay, which earlier this year announced its intentions to offer “physible” downloads that can be 3D printed. Ray denies the 3D files will make it easier for criminals to escape, however. “If someone is planning a prison or court escape, he can do it without our help,” he said. “We’re just making everyone aware, both the hackers and the police.”