Leaked Photo Leads To 3-D Printed Copies Of TSA’s Master Keys For Approved Luggage Locks

The keys to the Transportation Security Administration luggage kingdom can now be printed on a 3-D printer, thanks to photos published on the Internet of the agency’s master keys, the ones that can unlock any number of approved locks travelers might use to keep their belongings safe.

TSA security screeners need to be able to access travelers’ baggage, even if it’s locked, so agents use a set of master keys to open those locks instead of breaking them open. As part of a November 2014 behind-the-scenes story about luggage, the Washington Post at first included a photo of a set of seven of those TSA master keys.

From the Post:

It’s locked? No problem, Dr. Mumbai, the inspector has a key ring full of master keys for TSA approved locks. The photographer headed for Boise had two locks on the golf case containing his tripods, and both yielded readily to the inspector’s keys.

Though the photo went seemingly unnoticed for months, by the time the Post pulled it in August, it was too late: a security researcher going by “Xyl2K” was able to create CAD files that can be used to 3-D print all seven of those master keys, and posted them to code-sharing site Github, reports Wired.com.

So far, at least one owner of a 3-D printer has been able to make a key in five minutes using cheap plastic. He posted a video online showing that it opened a TSA-approved luggage lock:

He told Wired he used cheap plastic and didn’t make any modifications, and that it “worked on the first try.”

We reached out to the TSA and a representative told Consumerist that the agency is looking into the situation.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.