Joanita Wibowo


Scary new travel theft trend: Why locking your suitcase with padlocks is pointless

Scary new travel theft trend: Why locking your suitcase with padlocks is pointless

Locking suitcases may not be enough to keep them from being broken into, thanks to an increasingly popular technology.

UK consumer group Which? found that keys printed on a 3D printer could “potentially open the luggage locks of almost any bag in the world”.

Many suitcases have TSA-approved locks, giving officers from the US Transportation Security Administration the ability to access them if needed. These locks, which have seven different varieties, are used by more than 500 different luggage and padlock brands globally.

However, in 2014, the TSA's seven master keys were leaked in a Washington Post article, leading them to be replicated around the world and the templates posted on the Internet.

The consumer group's investigation found that after four years, bags are still sold with the same TSA locks and the same key templates still work.

The group found that a set of keys printed using a £200 (AU$369) 3D printer could open suitcases from a variety of brand, including Samsonite, Antler and American Tourister. The templates could also be used to order the keys in stainless steel from an online 3D printing service, which is available to anyone.

Travel Sentry, which produces the TSA lock security system across 30 countries, told the group that while the 2014 leak was taken seriously, it did not affect travellers' property security significantly as thieves still prefer using brute force to break into bags.

The company also added that the presence of the locks is "still a proven deterrent to theft and tampering".

While it is not mandatory in Australia, travellers are still advised to use these TSA-compliant locks when travelling to the US and Canada.

The TSA has not commented on the matter.

How do you keep your luggage safe? Let us know in the comments.