Are Smart Door Locks Safe?

Three things to know about these innovative devices


August 24,2020

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Smart door locks are the newest innovation in home security products These hands-free smart home gadgets are designed with convenience and safety in mind. Not only are you able to unlock the door using a custom key code, you’re also off the hook if you’re forgetful and leave your keys at home.  This is because smart locks operate electronically and don’t require a key to unlock. Some locks may even use remotes, smartphones or voice commands from a smart speaker to lock and unlock your door.  While they offer convenience to homeowners, some people wonder,  "Are smart door locks safe?" 

Phone Detection 

One reason people doubt the safety of smart locks stems from the mistaken idea that you can only unlock them with your smartphone.  Certain brands of smart door locks use  your phone’s presence via Bluetooth to disengage. This becomes problematic if someone steals your phone. However, most smart locks also have a backup key, and an entry code you can enter in the event your phone isn’t with you.  

Another issue with smart door locks that connect to phones is firmware problems. For example, in the summer of 2017, a firmware update caused a malfunction in smart locks produced by LockState. Over 500 customers were affected with 200 of the customers using the locks to manage their rental properties remotely. The company required affected customers to send them the lock for repairs. 

Getting Hacked 

Some might argue that another thing keeping smart locks unsafe is the possibility of someone hacking into your doors. There have been cases where they have been successfully hacked.  According to MIT professor Stuart Madnick

“There is always a risk that a net-enabled lock will get bricked or hacked, most likely due to the actions (or carelessness) of the owner.” 

At the 2016 hacker convention known as DEF CON, presenters focused on the safety of smart locks. Representatives from Merculite Security tested 16 smart locks that relied on Bluetooth technology to operate. They found  75%  of these locks had vulnerabilities that made them easy to hack. These vulnerabilities included the following: 

  • Plain text passwords 

  • Decompiling APK files 

  • Device spoofing 

  • Replay attacks 

Some companies have noted Bluetooth vulnerabilities and have added an extra layer of protection with the inclusion of Wi-Fi. For instance, Lockitron can use Wi-Fi to remotely unlock and lock a door or receive notices when the lock’s knock sensor has been triggered. 

Lock Removal 

Not only can many smart locks be hacked, but they also are proven to have other vulnerabilities like the ability to be removed with a flathead screwdriver. Since smart locks often work with an existing deadbolt, this may mean they have the same level of security as traditional locks. Some smart locks require the deadbolt to have certain specifications before installation. For instance, the smart lock may only work with thumb turn deadbolts and not double cylinder deadbolts. These limitations could make the home vulnerable since the homeowner will not be able to add additional hardware for extra protection. If you do choose a smart lock, it may be best to rely on a version where you can use it as an extra layer of protection for your traditional lock. Plus, depending on what type of power source the lock uses, the lock may become useless during power failures. Brinks Home Security™ offers smart locks with encryption, opening via Bluetooth, a key code, or a regular backup key, and battery backups in the event of a power outage.  

How To Keep Your Smart Door Locks Safe 

Just as there are ways your smart door locks can be compromised, there are also steps you can take to protect your locks from becoming vulnerable. This includes: 

  • Regularly updating your  smart lock password 

  • Not sharing your smart lock password 

  • Updating the mobile application linked to your smart door locks 

Practicing these security precautions will keep your smart door locks from becoming an easy target for break-ins.  

Interested in home security equipment including smart door locks, sensors, cameras, and smoke detectors? Contact Brinks Home Security™ today to find out more about their affordable equipment pieces and monitored home security plans. 

Krista Bruton is a DFW-based writer who covers smart home security and consumer protection.

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