Smart doorbells: Do they really make your home less of a target for burglars?

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Ring has dominated the market as one of the leading smart doorbells across the world, with millions of us buying into the video technology which keeps tabs on our property. Whether you’re in or not, the smart doorbell can be monitored using a mobile app – but is it really enough to keep our homes safe, or are you simply making your house more of a target for crime?

Do smart doorbells reduce crime?

Research into the effectiveness of smart doorbells has revealed that using high-tech surveillance equipment could make your home more of a target for criminals.

The research conducted by Cranfield University found that smart doorbells can give an ‘affluence cue’, suggesting a certain level of wealth and expense within the home it is ‘protecting’.

While they are a foolproof way to give homeowners peace of mind when home alone or out of the house, safety concerns over the effectiveness of this kind of home security continue to be debated.

Not only do Ring doorbells and similar models capture video and audio content, but they can also be used as evidence for many incidents happening within a neighbourhood due to the scope of the sensor.

Despite many debates and even legal proceedings regarding privacy concerns, smart doorbells have been proven to reduce crime on a minor scale.

Data published in December 2020 showed that up to 55 percent of crime has been reduced by Ring doorbell users – though this varies depending on the location and neighbourhood, says Estate Agent Networking founder, Christopher Walkey.

Can wireless doorbells be hacked?

With modern technology comes modern crime such as hacking.

Smart doorbells are controlled via an online system which leaves it open to being interfered with by a third party – but just how easy is it?

Findings by consumer group Which? found that major security flaws in popular smart doorbell products were putting consumers at more risk of being a target for crime than before they owned the product.

According to BBC, the watchdog tested 11 devices and found that the most common flaws were weak passwords, policies and a lack of data encryption.

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At least two out of the 11 devices could be easily manipulated to steal network passwords which opened up access to other devices within the same home.

Experts have revealed that the Ring doorbell is also susceptible to hacking adding that the biggest threat comes at the initial set-up stage when configuring the doorbell is done through an unencrypted system.

The watchdog group found that smart doorbells lend themselves to a number of security issues, including:

  • KRACK – Key Reinstallation Attacks are a vulnerability in the Wi-Fi authentication process
  • Excessive data collection – the exact location of the device could be found in some cases of smart doorbell hacking
  • Weak password policies- some models don’t encourage you to change passwords

Third-party control of your home surveillance is a scary thought, but there are many ways a hacker can easily find their way into your smart doorbell and begin to access all aspects of your home, including:

  • Credential stuffing – poaching data from sites with data breaches that may contain your passwords
  • Exploiting your home network – once your doorbell has been hacked, other devices connected to the network could also be compromised and vice versa
  • Device control – once in, a hacker has full control over your device and will know when the home is empty for potential robberies
  • Botnets – hackers use the collective power of botnets to attack websites, servers and organisations

Top tips to keep your property safe

While a smart doorbell could offer you peace of mind and perhaps an extra level of home security, there are a few home safety steps that should always be followed before leaving your home.

  • Lock all windows and doors and remove keys from locks
  • Leave keys out of sight from windows and doors
  • Don’t make it obvious your home is empty – leave a light on and collect post
  • Use a timer system on household lights to fool thieves into thinking you’re always home
  • Use a security light outdoor which is a motion sensor – thieves don’t want to be seen
  • Invest in a safe to lock up valuable belongings when you’re away for a prolonged period of time – always hide the safe for extra security
  • Never leave notes on your door for delivery drivers

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