Although 3D printers are extremely cool innovations for personal manufacturing and three-dimensional design, they're also something else that no one counted on — a potential security risk for law enforcement. A hacker/security specialist from Germany has figured out how to hack high-security, restricted handcuffs using a replicated plastic key.

Unlike standard handcuffs, whose keys are widely distributed, restricted cuffs are accessed by a limited set that are not available commercially. But in a workshop at the Hackers On Planet Earth conference in New York, the German security consultant showed how he was able to fabricate working copies.

First, he made precision measurements of the keys, which were acquired off eBay and other sources. Next he drafted CAD designs, and then sent the plans to a 3D printer, which outputted functional ABS plastic keys. (He also discovered that the same methodology works for plexiglass via lasercut printers.) The replications worked on restricted handcuffs from two out of three major makers, Bonowi and Chubb. Even though the third, from Clejuso, managed to withstand the hacking — the mechanism required more turning force than the copied key was capable of withstanding — two out of three is still a pretty stunning success rate. And you can bet this won't be the last time you hear about a potential wayward use for them.

At this point, 3D printers are still a fairly new product category, but as they gain momentum, there will no doubt be even more creative — and disconcerting — applications of this technology.

(via The Firewall)