Smart Padlocks Aren't Exactly Smart
You’ve seen them in movies and TV over the years: locks protecting secure areas use fingerprint or iris scans to open doors that need ultimate protection. The technology has been around for a while, combining powerful hardware with biometrics — using a unique part of your body to authenticate — for protection. But these locks are mainly used to protect sensitive areas, and the technology is unaffordable for households.
Smart locks are essentially deadbolt locks, instead of having marbles and cylinders, they are opened using electronic devices. (Some of these ports connect to existing deadbolt locks.) You can unlock some of them with your phone, others use NFC (Near Field Communication) tags, and some offer a keypad. They are not that smart. All they provide is an authentication system that allows you to enter your home.
But smart locks can be integrated into broader smart home setups, and in addition to opening and closing doors, smart locks can also be used for scenarios or everyday tasks. For example, when you enter your home, smart lights can be turned on in halls and specific rooms, the thermostat can be adjusted up and down, music can be played, and more.
You can also operate many smart locks remotely to let cleaners or dog walkers, or even friends or guests, into your home. Combined with a smart doorbell with a camera, you can visually confirm who wants to enter your home. Smart locks can send you alerts when your kids come home from school.
With smart locks, you have to deal with a number of potential issues that could prevent you from getting in the door. If the battery is dead, then the lock will not work. Therefore, most smart locks also have a key slot, so you can open the door with a key when needed.
Some smart locks rely on wifi to function; this allows you to open them remotely. However, if your wifi fails, then you can’t control them. Others use Bluetooth, which means they don’t rely on a network, but a direct connection between the lock and the phone.
What if you lose or forget your phone? While many smart locks offer a keypad or fingerprint sensor, some don’t, and you may find yourself locked out. However, if someone steals your phone and manages to figure out your passcode, they can take control of your lock.
Smart Software Vulnerability
Like any connected device, smart locks can be hacked, even remotely. If your smart lock uses wi-fi, a thief can unlock your door and enter your home at any time. If the smart lock works with Bluetooth, criminals need to be close to the lock. Smart lock software needs to be more secure: it needs to have two-factor authentication to ensure that hackers cannot access your account and open your lock.
But locks aren’t the only weakness. In some cases, smart home hubs have been hacked and malicious users can then unlock the door. Therefore, if the smart lock is used with a hub, the hub must be secure, preferably using two-factor authentication. If not, your router may be the entry point to your home; make sure it has a very secure admin password.