Smart Locks: Smart Idea or Security Nightmare?
What could this new innovation in technology bring with it and how can we make it secure?
Smart home technology has introduced intriguing possibilities around home security and automation.
Having your lights automatically come on when the sun sets is a pretty cool way to make your home look occupied, even when you’re out.
And a smart lock can automatically unlock the front door with a tap of your phone, allowing you to accept parcel deliveries when you’re out, or allow your kids to come and go without a key.
Amazon has already trialled a similar system in the US. Amazon Key is a doorbell camera, similar to the Ring doorbell (which Amazon recently acquired), or the Doorbird, with an additional lock. It allows Amazon delivery staff to open the door and drop off their Amazon package if nobody answers the door.
Things to Think About When Considering Smart Locks
Before using a smart lock, you really need to consider:
How good the lock is as a traditional security device
Whether you trust the company that’s providing both the app, the lock, and the cloud infrastructure behind it
How long you’d allow a random deliver person to wander around your home before calling the police
Whether your insurance would cover you if someone hacked your lock, or stole your phone and managed to get into your house with it.
Also, consider unreliable technology. As much as as smart lock manufacturers would like you to believe their products are failsafe, they can’t be.
Mobile networks are not consistently available. WiFi, which your lock will need to communicate with your phone, could be interrupted. Your power could go out. Your router could go offline.
Companies providing smart home devices do sometimes go bust, leaving users with no service. Or they sometimes force users to accept terms and conditions before using them.
How to Choose a Secure Smart Lock
Smart locks are undoubtedly cool, and offer lots of benefits for busy families. If your kids are constantly losing their house keys, you’ll understandably be drawn to a better solution.
And if you rent out your property, or you need to let people in and out to clean and maintain it, being able to issue codes will be a big bonus.
But as we discussed earlier, security should always trump convenience:
Check the track record of the company providing the lock
Look at the encryption, and who’s holding the encryption keys that would theoretically unlock your account
Test drive the support. If you lose your password for the app, how long will it take for you to reset it? (I have a doorbell camera, and it was left waiting 10 days over Christmas while my security was reset. Thankfully, I don’t have a smart lock connected to it.)
Check what batteries it takes, and whether the low battery alerts would give you enough time to replace them. If there’s a back-up battery port, consider whether you’d have the relevant battery handy
Think about what would happen if you forget your code, or arrive home during a power cut
Ask your insurer whether they’d cover you if someone guessed the code.
There are obvious risks whenever you compromise security for convenience, and this is a topic we regularly come back to on this blog. As a general rule, any time you make something more convenient, you’re making it less secure. This applies to your phone and computer just as it does to your home and family.
Smart locks have their place in some situations, but they won’t necessarily solve all of your home security woes.