There are many questions you might have about installing smart locks in your home. The technology that goes into smart locks themselves can be complicated. Therefore, you might want to know more about a smart lock’s inner workings before installing. You may also wonder ‘are smart locks safe for my home?’ This is an important question to answer as smart locks are fairly new. Not everyone understands them as well as more traditional locks. Maybe you want to learn more about their potential vulnerabilities. In this article we’ll review what a smart lock is, how they work to keep your home secure, and whether they’re safe to use.
Defining a Smart Lock
If we’re going to help you determine “are smart locks safe for my home” we’ll first have to take a step back and define a smart lock.
You can describe a smart lock in many ways. However, in simplest terms, a smart lock is a piece of security equipment that takes the best components of traditional locks and combines a smart interface with these components. A smart lock enhances your home’s security by placing a protective barrier at your home’s most vulnerable place—the front door. A few key features include:
- Automatic locking/unlocking
- Mobile app integration for remote control
- Mobile and email notifications of important activity
- Voice commands and integration with smart speakers
- Customizable schedules for automatic locking/unlocking
- Activity logs
- Unique passwords and codes for user
- Bluetooth and Geofencing compatibility
Network Connections for Smart Locks
In most cases, a smart lock will use Wi-Fi to establish connection and communication with your smartphone. This makes it easy to control your lock and manage who’s entering your property.
Smart locks can also connect to Bluetooth and Z-Wave networks. Bluetooth lets you pair your smart locks directly with a tablet or smartphone. Z-wave networks, on the other hand, pair up with a smart hub.
Once you establish connection to the hub, you can enjoy remote access functionality. When selecting a network for your smart lock, keep in mind that Bluetooth and Z-wave may have a range limit for connection. For example, some Bluetooth networks only function up to 400 feet from the user. You can avoid range limits with Z-Wave locks by integrating your smart hub with your home’s Wi-Fi.
How Secure Are Smart Locks?
Over the years, traditional deadbolt locks have been a staple for many homeowners. But there was plenty of room for improvement. For example, intruders found ways to pick locks. Or homeowners discovered it was hard to keep track of all their spare keys.
Alas, smart locks were born. But how much more secure are they than the deadbolts we know so well? We’d say there’s quite a difference between the two.
Benefits of Using a Traditional Locking System
- Familiarity. Traditional lock-and-key systems have been around for what seems like forever. Some people may like not having a learning curve with their locks.
- Relatively Easy To Use. Similar to familiarity, traditional locks are relatively easy to use. You insert the designated key to unlock a door. It doesn’t get easier than that.
- Widely Accessible for Renters. Most property renters can install a traditional lock-and-key system on their door if they don’t already have one.
Cons of Using a Traditional Locking System
- Out of Luck If You Forget to Lock Up. Old-school locks don’t provide remote access. Therefore, if you forget to lock up on the way out, you’ll have to return home to resolve the issue.
- Tracking Spare Keys. Family, friends, or household employees can access your home with spare keys. However, you’ll have to remember to track and get the keys back to prevent security vulnerabilities.
- Lock Picking. Thieves or intruders may try to enter your home by picking your door’s locks.
- Inability To Integrate With a Smart Home Security System. Traditional locks can’t integrate with your smart security system. This limits the number of features you can enjoy to enhance comfort, security, and convenience throughout your home.
It’s hard to shrug off these cons when you compare them to the benefits of a smart lock system. Sure traditional locks have their own set of benefits. For example, let’s say you’re not interested in technology at all (however, even then there’s sure to be a smart lock system for you) with a traditional locking system you don’t have to worry about updating your software.
Let’s take a closer look at some benefits of using a smart lock.
Benefits of Using Smart Locks
- Temporary Keys. Temporary keys are one thing to think about when looking at ‘are smart locks safe‘ closely. You can let guests into your home temporarily using their smartphones with a smart lock system.
- Privacy Software. Pair your smart locks with a Virtual Private Network so you can access the Internet without anyone tracking your IP address. The encryption is also quite good because it is similar to the type of encryption that banks used to safeguard their money.
- Remote Access. Thanks to technology, you can enjoy a get out of jail card the next time you forget to lock your door on the way out. Or you can let your house guests inside while you’re on the opposite side of town running errands.
- Password/Keyphrase Access. Just like having a password to secure your online accounts, setting up a password/keyphrase for your smart locks secures your front door. Some smart locks even let you create unique temporary passwords for guests or housekeeping services.
- Option for Using Traditional Keys. Many smart locks even give you the option of unlocking your door using a normal key, too. This makes smart locks more secure just in case whatever smart device used to unlock your smart lock is out of power.
- Protection from Lock Picking. Some of the smart locks you can get do not even have a key slot. This means that thieves don’t even have the option of trying to break into your home this way. However, that is just one way in which thieves can try to get into your home and it doesn’t mean that smart locks are always more secure than traditional locks.
- Activity Logs. Activity logs or feeds lets you keep track of users entering your home. This is great for knowing when the kids have made it home from school or when the dog walker has arrived. On the other hand, if something looks suspicious, you can immediately take action to resolve the issue.
Cons of Using Smart Locks
- Limited Options for Renters. Most apartments or rental properties have a traditional locking system. If you wish to install smart locks, you’ll likely have to make a special request with your apartment’s management staff or landlord. If they reject your request for smart locks, you’re out of luck.
- Software Updates. To avoid technical problems with your locks, you need to stay on top of software updates. Some may find this frustrating.
- Potential Opportunity for Hackers. Unfortunately, hackers may try to get through your smart locks by hacking into the software. Choose a strong password for your lock and update your software regularly to prevent vulnerabilities. Thoroughly research and read reviews and certifications for the lock you’re eyeing.
- Price. On average, smart locks are more expensive than a traditional locking system.
What Should You Want in a Smart Lock?
The three most important things you should want in a smart lock are plenty of battery life, safety features, fail-safe, and strict controls on guest access.
- Battery Life. An abundance of battery life is ideal for pretty much anything that runs on batteries. However, it’s especially important to have with your smart lock to enjoy 24/7 functionality. You should replace the batteries in your smart lock every six months just to be safe.
- Safety Features. Of course, safety is also important in a smart lock. Pick a locking system that provides the safety features you want. For example, if you want to know who’s entering your home and when, make sure your locks have activity logs.
- Fail-Safe. You should check and make sure that you have a fail-safe for your smart lock. After all, your power could go out, and your lock’s digital components may not work while the power is off. Therefore, keeping a mechanical key that’s compatible with your smart lock system is a good idea.
- Guest Access. A lot of doors with smart locks let you give out guest access temporarily so someone else can come in through the door without a key. This eliminates the need for making and distributing spare keys.
How Real Is the Threat of Smart Locks Getting Hacked?
Smart locks are unlikely to get hacked. This is because of the high-level encryption they use. But are smart locks still vulnerable to hacking in some sense? In the most general sense, the answer is yes, since it is technically possible for any security system to get hacked. However, the level of encryption smart locks use keeps the potential of hacking very slim. As long as you choose a unique username and strong password, your smart locks will probably be just fine.
How To Choose a Strong Password?
One part of the answer to ‘are smart locks safe‘ is that it can depend on the strength of the password you choose. As a result, it’s important to know how to pick a strong password. The first tip is to create a new password for your smart lock after installing the system. You don’t want to use a previous password because that makes it easier for others to guess. Avoid making the password something obvious that people can quickly figure out. For example, your birthday or your spouse’s name. For more tips on picking a strong password, check out this guide.
Restrict Access to Your Smart Locks
Are smart locks safe for my home? They are if you don’t share access to your smart locking system with every person you know. Keep the system secure by limiting the number of people who can access the locks. Only give your password out to people who need it and those you can trust. It’s best to do this on a case-by-case basis while thinking clearly about who is getting access to your home. Obviously, if you give out access to too many people, then your smart lock won’t be as safe as it could be as a result.
Smart Locks Can Be Quite Safe for Your Home
Answering whether smart locks are safe for your home is not easy. This is for a number of reasons. The most important reason is that their safety largely depends on how well you use them. Using smart locks well means doing the following:
- Create and use a strong password
- Only give out access when absolutely necessary
- Buy a high-end smart lock
- Updating your system’s software
Overall, we believe smart locks are safe for your home. They also offer more features and functionality than your traditional locking system. Therefore, they are the clear winner. You should definitely make sure that you are using your smart lock correctly so that it is as safe as possible for you and your home.
If you want to learn more about smart locks and protect your home, talk to the security experts at ONIT Home. We’ve been helping families and businesses protect their homes with best-in-class smart home security for over a decade. Give us a call at 1-833-433-0331 to learn more about how we can help protect your home with a customizable security system.