How Safe Are Smart Locks? Your Security Questions Answered


A Response To "What Are Your Best Door Locks?"

A couple months ago we published "What Are the Best Front Door Locks?,"  listing some of the most high-tech locks on the market: August, Kevo, Goji, Okidokeys Smart-Lock, and Lockitron. But can these so-called "smart" locks really outsmart the good ole lock and key? While those in the tech industry often praise these new generation locks for their automated features, actual consumers are scratching their heads over the most basic thing you can ask of a lock: can it keep you safe?

Bluetooth Connections

Some of the biggest fears surrounding smart locks revolve around the connection between the lock and your phone. For instance, how each device implements the latest version of Bluetooth can be a cause for concern. If it isn’t done per sec, the lock might not benefit from the latest security features that are baked into Bluetooth, leaving your home vulnerable to security holes. Additionally, since most smart locks connect via Bluetooth, WiFi, or both, they are more vulnerable to the possibility of a remote hack. But outsiders getting in isn't the only threat—if you lose power or your WiFi is down, you may not be able to get into your own home. In this situation, only iPhone 4s and 5 users can gain entry. If you have any other type of phone, you'll need to get the original key or you're out of luck.

SEE ALSO: 4 Up-And-Coming Home Security Devices

While taking security protocols online can seem like a whole new battlefield for those weary of security in the digital realm, the connections made by smart locks were built with the utmost defense in mind. Most smart locks are implemented through a 128-bit AES encryption, the kind of protection used for online banking. This level of encryption isn't to be underestimated; it's also used by the US government for low forms of classified information. For some like the August lock, the ability to connect to the internet isn't even a possibility (users can only connect via Bluetooth), decreasing the potential of remote hacks and helping to preserve battery life.

Brains Over Brawn?

About 30 percent of all burglars gain entrance to a home through an open or unlocked door or window. If this isn't an option, they often resort to brute force—a long-time problem for traditional locks and a huge challenge for smart locks trying to bring their industry into a more high-tech world. So how successful are these digital locks in securing the fort from more manual threats? The best answer to that is this video demonstration of the Kevo lock: While deterring someone who is hard-pressed on breaking in can be a nearly impossible obstacle, some smart locks are finding ways to work around this issue in a way that's true to their name. One example of a lock that incorporates these clever strategies is the Goji lock. This two-part device completely replaces your deadbolt system, making digital keys out of your phone so that you can remotely lock and unlock your front door. When it comes to aggressive trespassers, Goji offers this solution: WiFi-enabled surveillance cameras. Although they may not have the brawn to physically stop a burglar, they can send footage straight to your phone, alerting you of a break-in in real time and providing visual proof of the incident for authorities.

High-Tech Doesn't Always Mean High Security

So are smart locks a significant improvement from run-of-the-mill deadbolt locks? As far as security is concerned, not really. While high-tech locks take huge strides in making access more convenient—like Okidokeys Smart-Lock wristbands that allow even non-smartphone users to gain simple entry—they are not remarkably more safe than their less digital counterparts. Most smart lock providers encourage users to have a backup lock and key, defeating the purpose of going high-tech in the first place. Ultimately, smart locks are best put to use when added to a larger, home-automated security system, acting as more of a security add-on than the sole divider between your home and outside threats.

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