How Secure is Smart Lock Security?

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With smart home technology becoming more mainstream and accessible, many consumers are turning to smart lock security and questioning how it compares to traditional mechanical locks. Smart locks have many advantages, but are they more secure? How much of a risk does hacking pose? What’s the best way to keep your home safe?

A market on the rise

The current popularity of smart homes and the ubiquity of smartphones means that the smart lock market is thriving. While growth is now slowing, the multi-billion dollar industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of almost 15% by 2023, rising in value by over $8 billion. APAC currently accounts for just over half of the global market, but smart lock security continues to be popular in North America and Europe as well. With residential users making up over three-quarters of the market, it’s clear that quite a lot of consumers aren’t worried about the risks of smart lock security.

What are the benefits of using smart locks?

Convenience is one of the big selling points of smart lock security. No need to carry around your keys – simply use your smartphone, biometrics, or other methods to unlock your door. Connect other smart home systems to your smart lock, and opening your front door can trigger the heat or air conditioning to turn up and the lights to turn on. Give houseguests a digital key instead of a physical one, and let delivery people inside when you’re not there to answer the door.

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Smart locks also offer security features that traditional locks don’t. They can provide a record of when the door is opened and by whom, helping keep track of any suspicious activity and also providing notifications when children leave or arrive home. They can also connect to a security camera that allows you to see who is at your door and choose whether to give them access.

Both the convenience and security factors can benefit people with limited mobility as well, making it less of a challenge to use or answer the door. Features that are simply a convenience to some people can make significant quality of life improvements to others, such as not having to reach for keys or light switches. They can also assist family members and caretakers.

Compatibility capabilities

One of the current challenges for both manufacturers and consumers is compatibility. Currently, there are many different companies offering smart home services; Google, Amazon, and Apple are among the most notable, but there are several others as well. All of these companies use different systems, so if a manufacturer wants a smart home product to be universally compatible, it needs to develop integration for each system individually. Consumers need to check the compatibility of each smart home product they purchase to ensure that it works with their system.

This is set to change in the near future, however. The Zigbee Alliance is leading an initiative to develop a universal smart home standard that would make new devices compatible with any system. The initiative includes Apple, Amazon, and Google as well as many other industry players, and it plans to complete a draft of the standard by late 2020. This would ease the burden on manufacturers and consumers, and should encourage more people to adopt smart home technology.

While compatibility is an important concern to someone buying a smart lock system, it’s probably not the first thing people worry about. So how secure are smart locks compared to traditional ones?

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Smart Lock Market by End-users and Geography - Forecast and Analysis 2019-2023

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Smart lock security: strengths and vulnerabilities

Smart lock security introduces a new risk that traditional locks don’t face: hacking. With the right tools and knowledge, someone could gain remote access to a smart lock, use it to enter the home, and possibly even take access away from the owner. And if the smart lock is connected to a wider smart home system, gaining access to the lock could grant access to everything else as well. If a line of smart locks has a vulnerability, then someone aware of that vulnerability could use it to access any home using that lock if the manufacturer is slow to patch it, or if the lock is unable to receive patches in the first place.

Like any other technologies and systems we use, from smartphones to accounts on various websites, the risk of hacking is always there, but there are ways to mitigate that risk. Buying high-quality, certified products from companies that regularly patch and maintain their systems reduces the likelihood of ending up with a smart lock with a major vulnerability that can’t be fixed. Using strong passwords, two-factor authentication, and other good security practices will also help keep your home secure.

Suggested reading: Top 5 Ways to Ensure Cybersecurity in the Age of IoT

There is one other danger that gets less attention and is more easily overlooked, and it comes from within the home rather than without. Abusers can use their access to smart home systems to control, stalk, and harass their victims, potentially locking someone out of their own home.

While it may seem simple to change passwords and disconnect systems, the situation is frequently more complex than that. The abuser may have been the one to set up the smart lock systems and other features, making them more familiar with the technology and possibly the only one with access. They may also still be living in the home with their partner. It is therefore important for everyone in the home to have individual access to the smart home systems and be familiar with how they function. Manufacturers of smart home technology should also ideally have practices in place to help people dealing with this type of abuse, but that isn’t always the case. As with hacking, taking precautions here can help keep users safe down the road if problems do arise.

All of these smart lock security measures may not be enough to keep out a determined hacker or intruder, but they will be effective in most cases. It’s also worth noting that mechanical locks have their vulnerabilities as well. Locks can be picked, and doors can be broken down – whether they have a traditional lock or a smart one. In the end, both types have their strengths and weaknesses, and it is up to the consumer to decide which qualities matter most to them.

Find more insights into the smart lock market in Technavio’s market research report:
  • CAGR of the market during the forecast period 2019-2023
  • Detailed information on factors that will fuel the growth of the smart lock market during the next five years
  • Precise estimation of the global smart lock market size and its contribution to the parent market
  • Predictions on upcoming trends and changes in consumer behavior
  • The growth of the smart lock industry in APAC, Europe, MEA, North America, and South America
  • A thorough analysis of the market’s competitive landscape and detailed information on vendors
  • Comprehensive details of factors that will challenge the growth of smart lock vendors