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Are Smart Door Locks Safe? A User’s Guide

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Are Smart Door Locks Safe? A User’s Guide
November 1, 2019
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Are Smart Door Locks Safe? A User’s Guide

Smart door locks eliminate the hassle

of keeping track of house keys—without compromising home security

There’s good news for those of us who are always misplacing our keys: A new generation of smart door locks is enabling people to bid farewell to house keys.

This keyless convenience is a boon to home security, offering better awareness and control of who enters our homes. But while some have raised questions about the specter of hacking that can loom over any connected smart device, carefully choosing a security company that implements the highest safety measures—and taking some simple precautions yourself—enable you to enjoy the benefits of smart locks without concern.

While asking Alexa to convert cups to ounces is convenient and programming lights to automatically turn on when you enter a room is pretty cool, it’s arguable that few smart home products can improve people’s day-to-day routines as much as a smart lock. This simple device eliminates a mental burden most of us don’t realize we carry until panic sets in.

Do kids keep losing their keys on the way home from school and getting stuck outside? No worries; smart locks don’t need you to keep track of keys. Children can simply punch in their personal pin codes—or you can let them in remotely and then lock the door behind them.

Oops, forgot to lock the front door when you ran out? Not only can the smart lock send you an alert, but you can whip out your smartphone or another mobile device to lock it remotely from anywhere.

Hands full of heavy groceries? Instead of fishing through your purse or pockets for keys at the door, you can unlock the house with your smartphone or by punching numbers into a keypad.

How do smart locks work?

The entire concept of a smart door lock—and any smart device, for that matter—is to add convenience to people’s lives. Smart locks eliminate the need to keep track of keys by enabling users to punch in a short code to gain entry to the house. Frontpoint Security’s Smart Door Lock enables users to create and share up to 50 unique entry codes for welcome visitors, making sure owners know exactly who has come and gone from the house.

But smart locks also take door security to the next level with features like remote access and voice control through smart hubs like Amazon Echo or Google Home. Here’s how this works: Frontpoint Security’s Smart Door Lock utilizes Z-Wave Plus, a low-energy wireless communication protocol designed for home automation. When Z-Wave technology is infused into everyday products like locks and lights, these products become “smart,” giving them the ability to talk to each other and enabling people to control them from anywhere.

Z-Wave operates wirelessly and securely, defending against hacking with AES-128 encryption that is so strong that some estimates measure the time needed to decrypt it in billions of years. Frontpoint’s Hub simply receives a command from a user via a smartphone or other mobile device. It then transmits the command to the smart door lock over a secure former-military frequency.

Z-Wave Plus is the latest certification standard available for Z-Wave products, offering some expanded features like increased range, improved battery life, greater bandwidth, and standardized updates. Z-Wave smart door locks use less power than smart locks that rely on Wi-Fi connectivity and offer a much longer range than Bluetooth connections. They also won’t interfere with a home’s Wi-Fi signal.

Picture of the Frontpoint Smart Door LockPicture of the Frontpoint Smart Door Lock
Frontpoint Security’s Front Door Lock defends against hacking with AES-128 encryption that is so secure that some estimates measure the time needed to decrypt it in billions of years.

Four reasons to ditch your house keys

for smart door locks

Let’s examine some of the biggest reasons to consider installing smart door locks:

Spare keys are a security faux

pas

The FBI reports that more than 36 percent of burglaries in 2017 were unlawful entries—meaning the burglar didn’t have to break into the house. Spare keys can be a security risk—and every spare key you give out decreases your control over who enters your home. Kids may lose their house key in the neighborhood for potential intruders to find, or dishonest keyholders could make copies to use after returning yours.

And that emergency key you hid by the front door? Burglars know the most likely hiding spots.

Frontpoint’s Smart Door Locks enable homeowners and renters to ditch their spare keys and replace them with entry codes unique to each family member and trusted visitor. And unlike a spare key, you can easily delete a code, limit its use to certain days or times, and give it an expiration date so your dog walker or contractor doesn’t have unfettered access to your house.

Smart door locks can also work in tandem with doorbell cameras, enabling you to remotely unlock the door for a repairman or cleaner once you confirm they are outside. That way, you don’t even need to give temporary entry codes to people you don’t know well enough to trust.

Smart door locks make sure you

always know who’s at your house 

Smart door locks help people keep track of who's opening their front door. They can generate real-time mobile alerts every time someone unlocks the door with their user code, keeping you constantly up-to-date about who is in your house. For instance, smart locks can create peace of mind for working parents by letting them know when their kids are home safetly after school. You can also set “no show” alerts that let you know if someone who is supposed to be home at a certain time doesn’t arrive.

Smart locks will send alerts if someone forgets to lock the door as well, enabling homeowners and renters to remotely secure the house. They can even be programmed to send unexpected activity alerts if the door is unlocked at a strange time.

Enjoy the convenience of

voice-controlled security

Smart locks make locking up at night as simple as speaking to a smart hub device like Google Home or Amazon Echo. They can even be incorporated into smart home “Scenes;” for instance, programming the system to dim the lights, adjust the thermostat, and lock the door when you say, “Alexa, tell Frontpoint goodnight.”

Incidentally, you can also integrate your smart lock with other smart home devices to maximize convenience, such as setting smart lights to turn on when the door is unlocked.

Smart door locks make it nearly

impossible to get locked out of your house

It’s happened to the best of us: you step outside to water a plant and the door clicks shut behind you, locking you outside. Smart door locks eliminate the risk of missing or forgotten keys leaving you trapped outside. Simply enter your code on the backlit keypad to lock or unlock your door.

Dead batteries locking you out of the house are also not a significant concern. Smart locks linked to a smart security system will send alerts to your smartphone if their battery is low, giving you plenty of time to change it before there’s a risk it dies. But if you do wait too long, simply holding a 9-volt battery against the two prongs underneath Frontpoint’s Smart Door Lock will give it a temporary charge that enables you to punch in the code and unlock the door. Then, change that internal battery right away!

Picture of woman searching for lost keysPicture of woman searching for lost keys
Smart door locks eliminate panic over lost house keys—making sure people are never locked out of their homes.

Are smart door locks safe? How Z-Wave

Plus is locking down hackers

But how can homeowners and renters rest assured that smart door locks are safe? The smart home market is exploding, with 34.8 million smart homes scattered throughout the U.S.—a more than 22 percent jump over 2018, according to Statista. That number is expected to surpass 61 million by 2023.

And while the potential threat of hacking some smart door locks has been widely reported, reports of any actual malicious hacking incidents are hard to find, despite the growing number of devices on the market. The Z-Wave Plus technology utilized by Frontpoint’s smart locks makes hacking even less likely by bolstering the extreme AES-128 level of encryption with Z-Wave’s new Security 2 (S2) framework.

Developed in conjunction with the cybersecurity community to give the already secure Z-Wave devices even higher levels of impenetrability, S2 secures communication locally for home-based devices and in the hub or gateway for cloud functions. When announcing the new security framework mandated for all Z-Wave certified-devices, the Z-Wave Alliance asserted that S2 “virtually removes the risk of devices being hacked while they are included in the network.”

Essentially, the communication lockdown boils down to a QR or pin code on the device level that’s required for unique authentication and for the device to be added to the network. This also helps to make Z-Wave devices unusable in a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack by placing them out of reach from most consumer electronics. In 2016, a massive DDoS attack used unsecured Internet of Things (IoT) devices to render much of the Internet inaccessible on the East Coast.

The S2 framework was also carefully designed to block common hacks like “man-in-the-middle” and “brute force” attacks by implementing an industry-accepted secure key exchange based on the Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman (ECDH) protocol, which makes it nearly impossible to decipher a network key. During man-in-the-middle attacks, a hacker relays and possibly alters communications between two parties who believe they are communicating with each other. Brute force attacks are the cyber equivalent of trying every key on a key ring until you find the right one.

S2 also implements strengthened cloud communication by tunneling Z-Waves over IP traffic through a secure TLS 1.1 tunnel. Some of these hacking methods are complex, as is the technology that stops them. The bottom line: Z-Wave’s new Security 2 (S2) framework has taken extremely strong steps to prevent anyone from hijacking a signal to any of the devices that employ Z-Wave Plus.

Simple ways you can help secure smart

door locks—and any smart device—from hackers

At the end of the day, the biggest security threat to any smart home system may simply be user error. For instance, 15 percent of people never change the default password for the smart devices they buy, making them more vulnerable to hacks. Let’s review some simple steps homeowners and renters can take to ensure that smart devices in their homes remain secure from hackers.

Don’t underestimate the

importance of unique passwords for smart door locks and other smart devices

Many people make the mistake of using the same username and password combination (or passcode) on multiple devices or accounts. But if any of these combinations is uncovered—remember the massive Yahoo data breaches between 2013 and 2016 that revealed the personal information of more than 3 billion users—an enterprising cybercriminal could potentially use them to break into your other accounts and control smart home devices.

It's essential to use unique, hard-to-guess passwords for everything, from shopping sites you visit to home networks to smart home devices. Password manager software can help you manage the array of different passwords this calls for, creating unique passwords automatically and keeping track of them for you. And be sure to change default passwords; otherwise, it may only take a quick Google search to crack the password to your smart devices.

Stick with smart door locks from

reputable brands

Security experts agree that it’s best to pick smart devices from established brands. Not only are they more likely to employ better security measures when designing their products, but you can reasonably expect them to release fixes if vulnerabilities are ever discovered. Frontpoint’s Smart Door Lock, for instance, is manufactured by Yale, a dependable provider of door hardware since 1840.

Keep up with the latest software

and firmware updates

Always keep your smart lock up-to-date with the latest software and firmware patches. Manufacturers use software and firmware updates to patch any security issues and improve your lock's performance. Z-Wave Plus enables a standardized method for over-the-air firmware updates. While your system can properly function without Wi-Fi, enabling Wi-Fi also helps ensure software stays up-to-date.

Factory reset smart devices

before getting rid of them

Before you sell, throw out, or give away any smart electronics, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to perform a factory reset and remove all of your data. Otherwise, the next person who uses the device may automatically access information or communicate with other devices on your network.

Picture of kids coming home from schoolPicture of kids coming home from school
Smart door locks can generate alerts that let parents know their kids arrived home safely after school—or send “no show” alerts if they aren’t home by the expected time.

Smart door locks maximize awareness

and control of who enters your house

Burglars want to get in and out of homes fast—and breaking in the old-fashioned way with brute force on a home’s entry points is significantly simpler than going to the trouble of hacking a smart lock. And chances are, any criminal with the know-how to successfully hack a sophisticated device is going after bigger targets than a single home.

Homes without security systems are three times more likely to be robbed, and nine out of 10 burglars said they switch targets if they spotted a security system is in place. The cybersecurity safeguards on Frontpoint Security’s Smart Door Locks make them incredibly hard to hack.

And, when integrated with home security systems, they add an important layer of intelligent security to a home—allowing you to keep track of who’s coming and going, offering greater control of who enters your house, and helping convince potential intruders to move on to easier targets.


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.

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