Smart Padlocks – and what’s wrong with them

Bluetooth padlocks, fingerprint padlocks, wifi padlocks…

Smart padlocks are everywhere nowadays and it’s no surprise as more and more traditional products are re-released in their new shape, as “smart” devices.

It’s the perfect idea, really. Well, in some cases, at least. Here’s the good old padlock in a new shape that doesn’t require you to keep track of any keys that can be lost, forgotten or damaged. Instead you can use your fingerprint or your phone to unlock it and usually you can program the lock to accept multiple devices or fingerprints as keys.

This should be the perfect solution for any situation where many people need to have access to a space locked by a padlock. Instead distributing keys or keeping track of a code that needs to change regularly you can just program the lock to add or remove smartphones or fingerprints.

So, what’s the catch?

A lot of them are simply lousy locks!

Mechanical problems

It’s very common among cheap (and often not so cheap) padlocks that they suffer from poor mechanical design that makes them easy to bypass.

Bypassing means opening the lock without picking it or using the locking mechanism at all. It can be done by inserting a thin metal blade, either where the shackle meets the lock body (shimming) or through the lock itself, and pull on the internal mechanism so that the lock opens.

For smart locks there may be even more possibilities. Om some models it’s possible to simply break or peel off the electronics on the outside and access the internal mechanism that way, or you may be able to access the wires to the locking solenoid and unlock it using a regular battery.

Hacking problems

What are hacking problems in smart locks? They are all the problems that may make them vulnerable to hacking.

While they may be more difficult to demonstrate than mechanical bypass methods the pose an equally serious threat.

Everything computerised can be hacked and your smart padlock is no exception and as more and more smart padlocks are deployed you can be sure that hackers will be finding ways to open them remotely, without you knowing.

How to find a good smart padlock

There is nu surefire way to know if a smart padlock is really up to the task or not but, as is commonly the case, you tend to get what you pay for.

Don’t buy cheap smart padlocks that you find on eBay or novelty shops online. If you want something that you may trust, look for well known brand padlocks and buy them from reputable sources.

Yes it will cost more, but if you actually have something to protect then it’s probably worth some money to actually protect it.