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How Safe are Automated Locks?

September 16, 2018


Automated locks, also known as smart locks, are the latest trend in home and commercial security. High tech and easy to reprogram, automated locks make a lot of sense on paper, but are they really as safe as you would expect? Let’s take a look at how they compare to traditional locks.

How Safe are Automated Locks?

What Is a Traditional Lock?

Traditional locks have been in use for centuries, and they are what most people think of when they picture “locks.” These include knob locks, deadbolts, and similar manually-operated locks. Most use keys to gain access from outside, and some use keys inside as well.

Pin and tumbler locks are arguably the most common residential locks. The locking mechanism is a group of cylinders with spring-loaded key pins and driver pins. The key pushes these pins upward to align at the shear line, disengaging them and allowing the key to turn. If the wrong key is tried, the pins will not align, preventing the key from turning.

How Safe Are Traditional Locks?

Traditional locks range from highly secure to not all that secure. The most common type of exterior residential pin and tumbler lock is the deadbolt. All deadbolts in the United States are graded by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) based on strength, durability, and longevity. Grades run from 1 to 3, where 1 is the highest.

Extra security features are available, including solid metal strike plates and longer deadbolts. Some deadbolt locks are also engineered to resist lock picking, lock bumping, and other techniques. In addition, where the lock is placed and how it is used can affect its overall safety. Traditional locks can be backed up by other security measures as well, such as a security camera and motion detectors.

So traditional locks can be quite safe. It’s simply a matter of choosing a Grade 1 lock with additional security features and technology backup.

What Is an Automated Lock?

As the name suggests, an automated lock is simply an automated variation on a traditional lock. Automated locks typically use traditional locking systems such as the pin and tumbler, but they are engaged remotely or electronically rather than manually. Many are smartphone operated and can integrate with other smart devices around your home.

It is important to remember that automated locks require a key, but rather than a physical key, it is a cryptographic digital key from an authorized device. Automated locks allow you to send temporary keys to third parties and to monitor their status through your smartphone or other device.

Automated locks are convenient, especially if your kids tend to lose physical keys or you need to allow babysitters, construction workers, housekeepers, and other workers access to your home. Still, just because something is convenient does not necessarily mean it is safe.

How Safe Are Automated Locks?

Automated locks, like traditional locks, may be extremely safe or less so. One important factor to keep in mind is that the physical security of the lock is no different than that of a traditional lock, since the hardware is exactly the same.

However, automated locks add an extra safety challenge. Not only are they potentially at risk from physical attacks, they can also fall victim to cyber attacks. Some cyber attacks focus on the lock, others on the network. A network attack could also breach other smart devices on the same network, potentially putting your confidential information and personal data at risk.

Automated lock manufacturers constantly upgrade their security to adapt to evolving threats. You can also take steps to reduce the risk of a hack, including investing in a firewall and changing your passwords and access codes regularly. Still, automated locks should be seen as an upgrade in convenience rather than security.

Keep in mind that if someone is fixated on gaining access to your home or office, there is no such thing as an unpickable lock (regardless of whether the “picking” is physical or digital). Therefore, it is important to choose locks based on a balance of security and convenience. An experienced locksmith can help you select the locks that are right for you.

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