October 2, 2019
Dog Walking Apps Could Open the Door for Thieves
Smart home security starts with homeowners making
We all know better than to let strangers into our homes, especially when we’re not there. It was drilled into us as children and it remains true today—be wary of people you don’t know and certainly don’t leave the door open when you leave the house. Unfortunately, some individuals are ignoring this tried-and-true maxim when it comes to dog walking apps and other online crowdsourcing services.
With the rise of new apps and services that offer convenience or a way to earn some extra money, we may now be giving strangers complete access to our homes without giving it a second thought. Whether you’re saving time and getting things done with dog-walking apps, home cleaning and handyman services, or Amazon’s in-home delivery service—or making extra money by renting out your space through Airbnb or a similar website—you should consider whether the benefits outweigh the risks to safety and security.
Let’s take a look at the potential pitfalls of these apps and services and consider what to do from a home security standpoint to mitigate the risks.
Security concerns abound
with dog walking apps and similar services
Recently, ABC News reported that a dog-walking app may have given a burglar access to the house that she robbed. A doorbell security camera showed the thief entering a gate code, a garage code, and then a door code before accessing the house. According to the owner of the home, “The dog walkers hired through the Wag app are the only people who would have had all three codes for the home. I think we were maybe too trusting with our dog walking service.”
Trusting the strangers who work through a dog walking app or any other service with your home address, house key, or residential security codes—and the times you’re likely to be away from home—involves some risks that should be considered. Intruders, for example, may well gain employment through apps and services with the goal of obtaining access to homes for theft or other criminal purposes.
Even if the folks providing the service don’t break into your home, they may intentionally or unintentionally give the means to someone else. Service providers may be paid by another person to provide a copy of a house key, your security codes, or other data about your property such as digital footage of the interior or an inventory of valuable items. Otherwise, these service providers may simply be careless. What’s to stop them from writing down your security codes and address, and then irresponsibly leaving them (or a key) laying around for anyone to pick up?
The apps and websites themselves aren’t completely secure, either. In 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported that the popular dog-walking app Wag! had inadvertently exposed webpages showing customer information that included addresses and lockbox codes. And even without this degree of negligence, websites and service provider databases are vulnerable to hacking and other types of security breaches.
Another issue to consider is that dog walkers and other service providers, as well as short-term renters, may inadvertently fail to properly lock your doors or activate your home security system while they’re in residence or when they leave. Given all of these potential pitfalls, what is a concerned homeowner to do?
Should we give up the use
of dog walking apps and similar services altogether?
If this information is giving you second thoughts about using services that allow people you don’t know to access your home when you’re away, you’re right to be concerned. Every individual should weigh the convenience benefits of apps or the second stream of income received through a short-term rental service against the security risks.
The bottom line is that letting any stranger into your home lowers its security. But if you must do it, there are ways to reduce the risks while still reaping the benefits.
Smart home security
practices can help
Again, the safest course of action would be to never allow any individual who you don’t know and trust to enter your property. But if you simply don’t have time to walk your dog or clean your house, consider hiring someone who is properly vetted to do the job and/or only allowing these individuals access to your property when you’re home.
Try to obtain services from companies that perform comprehensive background checks and have appropriate data security measures in place. If you've already shared a housekey or entry codes with a dog walking app or another service provider who doesn't meet these criteria—and you’re planning to switch to a more secure option—changing your locks and/or entry codes as soon as you stop the existing service is a necessity.
If you still choose to allow service providers to access your residence when you’re away, be sure to leave detailed and complete information on how to properly lock your door or activate your home security system, if you have one. And the best systems automate much of this process for you.
Smart home security systems provide the best
Installing a smart home security system offers many more options for controlling who enters your house and when—as well as keeping an eye on them while they are there. Modern systems allow you to receive notifications when someone enters or leaves, as well as monitor what goes on inside and outside of your house via remotely accessed cameras which send footage to a mobile device. Here are four ways smart security systems can help:
- Create a temporary code. Many smart door locks and home security system control panels will allow you to create temporary codes to share with dog walkers, home-cleaning services, short-term renters, babysitters, etc. This code can be enabled and deactivated manually or at set times.
- Unlock doors remotely. Frontpoint’s Smart Door Locks allow you to lock and unlock doors yourself, right from your smartphone. Have your dog walker text you when they arrive at your house, and you can open a door for them and make sure it’s locked when they leave. There’s no need to share security codes with anyone at all!
- Receive smartphone alerts when service providers arrive. When a scheduled service provider arrives and uses a temporary code to gain entry, a smart home security system will send a message to your devices. In addition, wireless door sensors and motion sensors can alert you remotely whenever they’re triggered. Door sensors will even let you know if a door is accidentally left open when someone leaves.
- Monitor your home with smart security cameras. Wireless cameras can provide you with a series of 15-second feeds of the interior and exterior of your home when you’re away. The smartest cameras will even allow you to set custom detection parameters, so that they record only those moments when movement is occurring in a designated area. If someone isn’t where they are supposed to be, you’ll be notified and be able to check on what’s happening. Otherwise, you can manually access the cameras; viewing footage, for example, of when a dog walker arrives, when they are in the house, and the time when they leave.
Dog walking apps and similar services are undoubtedly convenient, but they present important home security challenges. For your personal safety and the protection of your property, carefully consider the drawbacks of giving random strangers access to your home.
But if you rely on some of these options and don’t want to give them up, a smart home security system can vastly increase your protection and peace of mind. You’ll know who is in your house, when they’ve there and when they’ve left, and be able to remotely keep an eye on exactly what they are doing.
Frontpoint keeps families safer and more connected in their everyday lives. We've been revolutionizing the home security industry for over a decade. And we're just getting started. To shop DIY home security systems, check out our Security Packages. If you have questions or would like to discuss a quote, contact us at 1-877-602-5276.