Special Report: Security concerns with smartphones and keys

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - If you lose your keys or get locked out of your home it can be a hassle, but thanks to new technology, there are now several apps out there that can make copying your key a piece of cake.

For the sake of this story our reporter Kelly Baumgarten broke into our producer Chris Schumaker's house and our assistant news director Jeremy Pate's office. She didn't smash any windows, use a crowbar, or pick the lock. All it took was an app on the iPhone.

"It is kind of creepy and it's a clever app, but it does kind of compromise security in a way because it takes a degree of accountability out of the process," said Morgan Mcenaney, owner of Beach Locksmith Services.

There are several apps you can download to copy keys by just snapping a photo on your cell phone. The apps were designed with the good intention of solving the problem of lock-outs and misplaced keys, but it can also make it easier for thieves to get a hold of your key. Mcenaney has been in the locksmith business for 15 years.

She said, "One of the things that we do as locksmiths, we kind of measure you up when you come to get serviced from us because we're trying to establish whether you're supposed to be there or you're supposed to have the key, and normally if someone walks into a shop they're in possession of the key."

Kelly did a demonstration to show just how easy it is to copy someone's key, by using the app called Keyme. She was able to snap pictures of Chris and Jeremy's keys while they were out to lunch. Once the pictures were sent all she had to do was pay $9 and order the keys.

After about three days the keys came. The one to Chris' house worked on the first try, but Jeremy's office key didn't work.

"It's tricky even from a photograph, and I've done it from a photograph before for clients, but you've got to look at the key to decode it and then put it on a machine and cut it manually," said Mcenaney, "so there's a huge margin of error there. A lot of times when I make keys I like to be where the lock is and test it so I can make sure it works because machines get out of adjustment, cutting wheels wear down, and you've got to adjust them constantly."

Keyme told Kelly they would refund her money and they would fix their mistake and send her another key within the next few days, and when the new key came, it worked.

"We live in a different age now, cameras fit into your pocket and it's amazing what you can do with them on a day to day basis, but they can also be used for very bad things as well," said Jeremy Pate, Assistant News Director at WJHG.

"Just to know that someone could take a picture, and get a key, a replica, of my house key and break in," said WECP Producer, Chris Schumaker, "I mean how far are we gonna take this?"

Mcenaney says you should definitely have more security than just a key in your home.

"An alarm system is a good idea and they're getting really clever with alarm systems now you can just buy them and they're like single units you don't have your house wired or anything like that anymore. You just stick it to the wall and you're good to go and you can look at it on your phone. If somebody opens your front door you get a notification on your phone," explained Mcenaney.

As for Chris, he says buying a home security system just went to the top of his list.

"Now that I know there's apps out there like this it's definitely a high point and a high priority," said Chris.