Keys to the city, New York City

There’s been a lot of buzz this month about the retired New Jersey locksmith selling several master keys to the city of New York to a newspaper reporter via eBay. It’s been reported in many major news sources, most notably to me in the Huffington Post, with a picture 

New York City Keys
New York City Keys by Photo News and nodeju.com

According to the Huffington Post story, the FDNY is now investigating the sale of the keys and has acknowledged the distribution of such items poses a potential threat to public safety. I’m not sure how many criminals interested in taking down a metropolitan infrastructure are concerned with the legal ramifications of possessing such keys if it did become illegal, however. Today the story received a post from Bruce Schneier. It goes to show you that after effectively creating a city wide police-state and surveillance infrastructure, your weakest point is always the path of least resistance. In this case, the sale of five keys on eBay that can shut down elevators, open subway gates and get into electric circuit breakers all over New York City.

NYC-surveillance
NYC-surveillance by Kris Constable

A few months ago I attended Hackers on Planet Earth (H.O.P.E.) in New York City, a bi-annual hacker conference where one of the talks was Advanced Handcuff Hacking.

3D printed city at H.O.P.E
3D printed city at H.O.P.E by Kris Constable

During the talk, “Ray” explained how to print handcuff keys trivially, and by the hundreds, using either a 3D printer (under $1,000) or a laser cutter.

Sheet of handcuff keys
Sheet of handcuff keys from Boing Boing

It makes me wonder how difficult it would be to download Google Sketch Up for free, and emulate the five keys in the picture at the beginning of the article and upload them to Thingiverse or The Pirate Bay?

Instead of putting resources into a surveillance infrastructure, which is reactive and appears to do nothing more than increase anxiety and force behaviour changes, perhaps municipalities should behave proactively and spend their resources on improving city security infrastructure, starting with the paths of least resistance. Especially before someone starts printing the keys to your business, or city.