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MAKER: Call a 3D Locksmith – How 3D Printing can Defeat Physical Security

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Make It!

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Page Numbers

26.1113.1 - 26.1113.10



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Paper Authors


Byron Doyle Brigham Young University

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Doyle is a recent graduate of Brigham Young University with a Bachelor's of Science in Information Technology, emphasizing Cyber Security. He currently works as a Security Analyst at Vivint.

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Colby Goettel BYU

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Lane Broadbent Brigham Young University


Dale C Rowe Brigham Young University

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Dr. Rowe has worked for nearly two decades in security and network architecture with a variety of industries in international companies. He has provided secure enterprise architecture on both military and commercial satellite communications systems. He has also advised and trained both national and international governments on cyber-security.
Since joining Brigham Young University in 2010, he has designed a variety of courses on information assurance, cybersecurity, penetration testing, cyber forensics, malware analysis and systems administration and published over a dozen papers in cybersecurity.

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Call a 3D Locksmith – How 3D Printing can Defeat Physical SecurityPhysical security analysts have always sought to overcome challenges in security infrastructureusing novel approaches and new technology. One of these challenges is preset, mechanical lockmechanisms. 3D printing technology provides a valuable tool for those interested in attacking orbypassing high-security locks. This technology can allow such practitioners to create key blanksor replicas from key data such as physical key measurements or photographic evidence.Preset, mechanical locks are generally vulnerable to a variety of attacks, but due to the enormityof designs and technologies in the world today, each lock typically requires a different techniqueto exploit or bypass. For example, simple pin and wafer locks can be picked with moderate skill,but more complicated locks with sidebar mechanisms make picking impractical withoutspecialized tools and a high degree of skill. These factors and more must be recognized byinformation security practitioners because physical access controls for sensitive infrastructure arejust as important as logical access controls. No amount of digital security is enough if attackerscan bypass the physical security and gain direct access to hardware.Impressioning is a common lock picking technique that allows an attacker to create a copy of thekey for the target lock. However, it requires skill and key blanks specific to the target lock type.Another option is to have the key copied, but there are countermeasures in place to make thisdifficult. These countermeasures include controlling the key blanks and cutting facilities forhigh-security locks. Additionally, it is inherently difficult to obtain the ‘bitting’ of the originalkey.3D printing can make all of these attacks more effective, increasing the risk that high-securitylocks may be circumvented. To understand how these manufacturing techniques can be used, afew methods of 3D printing will first be discussed, including their benefits and drawbacks. Next,some popular attacks on preset, mechanical lock systems will be examined. Finally, the twoapproaches will be combined to understand how 3D printing technology can enhance lockpicking high-security locks.

Doyle, B., & Goettel, C., & Broadbent, L., & Rowe, D. C. (2015, June), MAKER: Call a 3D Locksmith – How 3D Printing can Defeat Physical Security Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24450

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