Are Smart Locks Secure?

You might think that smart locks are a security disaster just waiting to happen. After all, why would you trust an internet-connected device with the security of your house and everything in it? But consider this: locks are pretty insecure in general.

Since the rise of smarthome technology, many users have voiced their concerns about the security of these devices, arguing that hackers could get a hold of their thermostat, lights, switches, and even the locks that keep our house safe from burglars. It’s an understandable argument, and while there are some concerns (like having your gadgets be used as part of a botnet to distribute malware across the internet), most of people’s immediate concerns about smart locks are…well, unimportant.

For starters, picking a lock the old fashioned way isn’t all that difficult. If you do a quick Google search, you’ll not only come across a ton of tutorials on how to do it, but you’ll also be greeted with places where you can buy your own lock-picking tools—literally anyone can do this with just a little bit of practice. So why would a thief go through the trouble of figuring out how to hack your specific smart lock when they could just pick it, as they always have?

Of course, you have the lock companies doing their best to come out with the latest technology that claims to be impervious to lock picking, and that’s great and all, but lock picking is just one method for getting past a lock.

Aside from lock picking, using brute force to bypass a lock is easily doable as well, either by using a ratchet arm with a carbon steel tip (essentially breaking the lock and opening it that way) or just kicking the door in if the door frame isn’t reinforced with a strike plate. Hell, if a front door has sidelites, you don’t even have to worry about messing with the lock at all—just break a sidelite window and unlock the door from the inside.

Speaking of windows, your door isn’t the only way into your house—if a thief wants to get in, they could just as easily break any window in your house instead of going through the locked door.

In other words, someone hacking your smart lock should be the least of your worries, as it’s already very easy to get into your house. Door locks can act as a deterrent for a lazy burglar, but if someone really wants to break into your house, they’re going to break into your house. The security of your smart lock will probably never even enter their minds.

Furthermore, it’s highly unlikely anyone with impressive hacking skills would want to break into your house in the first place (unlike what you see in the movies). Statistically, most burglars usually tend to be bored teenagers in the neighborhood looking for a thrill. In other words, most burglars are punks, not pros, and they probably don’t know the first thing about hacking a smart lock.

There is one problem with smart locks, though. Depending on which model you get, you’re basically advertising to potential burglars that you spent a lot of money on nifty gadgets, which could indicate that you probably have some nice, expensive stuff lying around in your house ripe for thieving. This can give burglars more incentive to break into your house.

A smart lock like the Kwikset Kevo looks pretty inconspicuous at first, but its pretty LED lights that flash can be a good indicator that the owner has some cash to spend. However, something like the August Smart Lock or the Kwikset Convert allows you to keep your traditional deadbolt by only adding a new smart mechanism on the inside. You still get the smart lock experience, but without the fancy flair showing on the outside.

In the end, just remember your door locks aren’t nearly as secure as you think. If you’re really worried about burglaries, you should also have a security system, video cameras and/or other security gear to protect yourself. As for hackers…well, if they’re after you, you probably have much bigger problems.

Craig Lloyd writes about smarthome for How-To Geek, and is an aspiring handyman who loves tinkering with anything and everything around the house. He's also a mediocre gamer, aviation geek, baseball fan, motorcyclist, and proud introvert.