Disclosure – We rely on reader support to run SmartHomeNook.com. If you purchase products using our links, we may earn a commission. Click here to read about our process.
Evolution of Smart Locks
Somewhere in the middle of 2013, the sale for smart locks started picking up and had a steady but not so great growth in sales till 2016.
With IoT making steady progress and acceptance of smart locks led to growth and innovation. Starting in the middle of 2016, the growth sales trajectory peaked at double the rate.
With the acceptance of smart locks, they have been accepted as fairly secure. Initially, when smart locks were introduced, consumers were apprehensive about how secure are smart locks.
The questions related to safety are always fair and we need to be confident before introducing any product or service into our lives.
Smart locks are replacing traditional locking systems thanks to IoT slowly entering our daily life. IoT or the Internet of Things is the future and it is a matter of time when everything in our lives will be interconnected and will be helping us make decisions including our daily chores.
Smart locks had their fair share of issues in the beginning. With every iteration and data available, they have come a long way. The perception related to smart locks being hackable or picked is largely looming around us even today due to its initial versions.
The smart locks have improved including safety features since 2018.
Before we dig into the topic further, I have a question
Are traditional key-lock solutions secure?
Security is also heavily dependent on an individual and how smartly they use it. Imagine placing your key under the mat or pot next to the door. It is an easy hack even for the most secure lock in the world.
So, are smart locks hackable?
The short answer is yes. But it is not a cakewalk as some news portals present them to be. All tech products are prone to it right from health care to aviation. Whenever a vulnerability is exposed, a software update is released to seal it and make it tougher to hack.
In 2017, MIT.edu did a project on security analysis of the August Smart Lock. The report concluded that they were unable to uncover any major vulnerabilities in the device. There have been considerable improvements since 2017.
Mindset: Are smart locks safe?
The news of smart locks being hacked started making news in 2017 and somewhat in 2018 when they were gaining popularity. There were news and articles which were based on mere speculations, hearsay, and half-truths.
A sizeable number of stories even today are referenced from a popular article from LifeHacker which referenced MIT professor Stuart Madnick. Thanks to google and the popularity of LifeHacker but the report and data mentioned are quite old and an article was published in 2017. It is not relevant years later.
The risks created by users, mentioned in the article still hold relevance. Smart locks can be picked but you need professional expertise to do that.
Another example from a recent CES 2020, TNW published a story by Callum Booth. Callum discusses that smart locks are not secure. He acknowledges he has no reasons but it is just trust issues based on reports on the internet published years ago.
Read: How do Smart Locks work?
Which smart locks to avoid?
The fundamental of buying a smart lock is the same as those associated with traditional locks with keys. Don’t head over to an eCommerce website and pick up a $10 or $20 smart lock.
We all know how safe these cheap locks are irrespective of smart or dumb locks.
The locks are meant to act as a deterrent for criminals. Whether it is a smart or non-smart lock, it is supposed to make breaking in difficult and time-consuming so that thief eventually gives up. A criminal who is determined will just make his way by kicking in the door or finding some other loophole.
Don’t buy those entry-level smart locks or deadbolts. The encryption and security features are a bare minimum.
Always remember, a smart lock is not another cool tech device you want to own. The enhanced security features and more control are the primary reasons smart locks are becoming popular.
The Psychological effect: Why smart locks are more secure?
Smart locks have a psychological edge over old locks. It gives an impression to the criminal that the house may be a smart home. It may be equipped with more smart security features not evident to the naked eye.
We always recommend adding a smart security spotlight camera and a smart video doorbell along with a smart lock.
These become a big deterrent for criminals. Their minds will have a second thought about putting their safety at stake.
Are smart locks hackable?
Smart locks are not easily hackable as they are perceived to be. They come equipped with the latest Z-Wave technology and AES encryptions. All the commands exchanged are very secure. It makes the smart locks difficult to be picked.
The Bluetooth technology used in smart locks is 4.0 and upwards with a range of around 10 meters. The criminal has to be too close to you to even start any hacking attempt.
The same encryption technology or similar encryption method has already entered our daily lives. The biggest vote comes from our online banking system.
How often do we hear about encryption failures or bank accounts being hacked? Most of the cases are of human negligence where they have been susceptible to phishing.
The smart locks are quite capable and secure. It is a human error that makes prone to breaches.
A human error includes using third-party apps or apps not authorized by the company. Have look at this 2016 video where a professor and students of the University of Michigan College of Engineering demonstrate how they hacked a smart lock.
But the reality is, it is a third-party app made by them through which hacked codes. So if a customer uses their app (an unknown third-party app), the security can be breached.
Always use an authorized app and equipment.
The effort and expertise required to hack a smart lock are far more than the mechanical techniques in the normal dumb lock. Additionally, many smart locks have built in-alarm that fires whenever there is an attempt to tamper.
Should you buy smart locks? Yes, we confidently advocate that. They are fairly secure and safe as compared to regular dumb locks.
Smart locks have a key role in making your home a truly smart home. The smart home is the future and the next big thing in this new decade.