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How to use your smart lock safely

Smart locks add convenience and even peace of mind, but there are still precautions to consider. Here's how to set your smart lock up for optimal security.

Smart locks are one of the foundational elements of the smart home movement. Makers like August, Yale and Schlage have given us smart locks that work with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit. Smart locks add convenience and the ability to know what's going on with your front door from anywhere, but there are some risks. Here are some sensible tips to keep your smart lock safe. 

Read more: The best smart locks of 2019

Use a PIN for voice unlocking

If your smart lock is connected to a voice assistant, be sure to use a PIN to unlock it with voice commands. It's a stretch, but it is possible to create workarounds with IFTTT to avoid using the PIN. It's also possible for someone outside your home to ask your voice assistant to unlock the door if they have just a few pieces of information about your device. 

Chris Monroe/CNET

You can read more about that here, but using a PIN for voice unlocking is an absolute must for smart lock safety. By default Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa both require a spoken PIN for voice unlocking, and you can use one with several smart locks, including the August Smart Lock Pro, the Kwikset Obsidian and Yale's Assure SL Touchscreen Deadbolt.

Create codes for individuals

Individual codes are a great way to not only ensure your safety, but also keep track of who's coming and going from your home. It's a good idea not to pass out just one code for friends, family, guests and commercial services. Most locks include the option for at least 10 codes. Some, like the Nest X Yale lock, allow an unlimited number of individual codes.

Consider having a code for each household member, one for guests and one for professional services. Smart lock apps will let you know which code or user unlocked the door in an activity history log in the companion app. 


The Nest X Yale lock includes an unlimited number of user codes. 

Chris Monroe/CNET

Take advantage of scheduling

Many smart locks, like the Array by Hampton, include the option to schedule these codes. That means you can set the dog walker's code to only be valid from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

If you're renting your home out or have guests staying the weekend, you can create an expiring code that will work all hours of the day between set calendar dates. This lets you give access to your home to the people who need it, but only during the period when they need it and no more.  

Enable extra features

There are a handful of extra features smart locks employ to keep your even safer. Decoy numbers, like the ones found on the Kwikset Obsidian, are numbers that may light up on a keypad before you type in your code. Typing the decoy numbers, which vary, before your code means you use more of the keyboard over time and makes it harder for would-be intruders from being able to guess your code based on fingerprints or wear on the buttons. 


The Kwikset Obsidian includes decoy numbers prompted ahead of entering your personal code. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Auto relock is a simple feature many locks offer that locks your door after a set amount of time, ensuring that if you leave the house without remembering to lock the door, your smart lock will do it for you. 

Keep firmware up to date

Last but certainly not least, keep your smart lock and its companion apps up to date. Manufacturers can use software and firmware updates to patch any security issues and improve your lock's performance. Check your apps regularly and update anytime there is new firmware or software available. 

Owning a smart lock can be a lifesaver when you need a friend or family member to drop something off or watch your home while you're away. As great as smart locks can be and as stylish as some smart locks look, it's still important to adjust the settings out of the box, to create the safest home for you. 

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