GEORGE TOWN - You can be lulled into a false sense of security at your condominium or gated community by your electronic access key.
However, these keys can be cloned with ease and it takes less than five seconds.
Checks with several locksmith shops in the city revealed that most will clone your key card for RM10 (S$3) to RM12.
A team from The Star visited a decades-old locksmith shop in the heritage enclave and asked the shop assistant to clone the key card to Star Northern Hub in Bayan Lepas.
The shop assistant simply placed the original key card on the decoder to instantly read it, then placed a small blank key fob (security device used to access services and data) on the decoder to embed the copied access codes into it. No questions asked.
"If it doesn't work, bring it back and I will return the RM12 to you," said the shop assistant.
The cloned key fob worked fine, was smaller and more convenient to carry around than the original key card.
This may be convenient for homeowners who simply want spare electronic keys, but the ease of cloning them lends itself to abuse and possible criminal intent.
"It makes our security system redundant. Anyone who uses a cloned key card is trespassing, as if they are cutting a hole in our fence to get in," said Gerald Mak, the management committee chairman of an apartment block near Pulau Tikus here.
Mak said his committee recently had to reset his apartment complex's entire key card access system when they realised that too many cloned cards were in circulation.
"We deauthorised every key card and issued new ones to every unit," he said.
He also confirmed with local authorities, including the police, that the use of cloned key cards were crimes of forgery and unauthorised entry.
If the situation was rampant, management committees could lodge police reports, he said.
"When the number of key cards to access our security system is uncountable, it makes our system pointless," said Mak.
In Shah Alam, a gated and guarded residence in Kota Kemuning wants the Commissioner of Buildings to gazette by-laws to make it illegal to clone electronic access keys.
Kemuning Bayu Residents Association vice-president and head of security Kenny Ho said they previously tried to confiscate cloned keys before and had such a hard time explaining the reason to residents.
If residents needed extra key cards, they should get them from the management offices, he said.
"This ensures each key is unique and records entries and exits in our community," he said.
Ho, who was also former joint management body (JMB) chairman of another condominium in Kemuning Utama, said he suspected there were cases of condominium owners cloning key cards for visiting relatives to access facilities such as the pool and gymnasium.
He said residents should understand that electronic keys to their homes were the property of the JMBs or management corporations and residents did not have the right to clone them.
"Why don't you clone your credit card as a spare? Credit cards are properties of the banks and don't belong to us," he added.
He said Kemuning Bayu Residents Association would soon upgrade its electronic access system with an anti-pass-back or one-loop feature.
This ensures only one key card can be used for entry and prevents a second or clone card from working until the first is used to exit.