Key Pad Entry [151589873]

Renters Want Keyless Entry, But Is It Worth the Risks?

With the growing popularity of the Internet of Things (IoT), renters are looking for homes that reflect their connected lifestyle. Sixty-five percent of baby boomers and 86 percent of millennials would pay more for an apartment with intelligent upgrades such as thermostats, lighting or locks. In fact, the majority of millennial renters (61 percent) look specifically for apartments with electronic access features, believing these capabilities increase security.

With these figures in mind, you might be considering making the jump from traditional locks to smart locks at your property. Before implementing a keyless entry system, however, it is important to weigh the risks against the benefits.

Keyless Entry Systems Are Easy to Hack

Like other IoT devices, smart locks are typically powered by Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or Z-Wave connectivity, making them vulnerable to hackers. According to Berkeley researchers, “Flaws in the design, implementation, and interaction models of existing locks can be exploited by several classes of adversaries, allowing them to learn private information about users and gain unauthorized home access.”

Security researchers at the Def Con conference also pointed out that some locks can even be hacked by someone with minimal tech skills.

If a tenant uses their smartphone to control a smart lock, their safety could be at stake if their phone ends up in the wrong hands. Nearly 30 percent of people use no screen lock on their phones, so a criminal could easily access personal data stored on the device to determine where the phone’s owner lives and then gain access to their unit with the click of a button. Not only does this vulnerability put your tenant at risk, but it increases your property’s liability.

Managing the System Can Be a Full-Time Job

While keyless entry systems might make renters' lives easier, that is not always the case for leasing offices. Smart locks come with the administrative burden of programming fobs, cards, access codes or biometric fingerprints.
The locks need to be reprogrammed not only when a tenant moves in or out, but also if the locks have been compromised in some way, such as by hacking or a tenant losing a fob. If your property uses a keypad system, access codes much be changed frequently regardless of whether or not a breach has been reported. This is because codes can easily be figured out. A common problem is "shoulder surfing,” a social engineering technique where someone obtains the code simply by watching the tenant enter it. Even if the tenant willingly provides the code to someone, it could be overheard or shared without their permission. Depending on the size of the property, managing access rights could be a full-time job.
Even if someone hasn’t seen or overheard the code, criminals can simply examine the keypad for wear and tear. The buttons the tenant presses on a regular basis will show signs of use and thieves can try a few different combinations to discover the right code. To prevent this issue, the codes must be changed regularly, making it harder for tenants to keep track of their codes.

Some locks allow you to use biometric thumbprints instead of codes, but this can create an administrative burden for your employees, since they will have to scan new tenants’ thumbprints and deactivate former tenants’ thumbprints.

You Do Not Eliminate the Need for Key Control

You may be under the impression that key control is no longer necessary when you implement a keyless entry system. Although there are some smart locks that eliminate the use of traditional keys, many still have key slots that allow you to use backup keys in case the smart lock malfunctions. Some users have reported that certain models of smart locks frequently crash, so having the option to use backup keys is critical. If you do use traditional keys as backups, you will need to secure and control access to those keys.

However, regardless of whether or not your system requires a backup key, you will still need a way to secure and track preprogrammed cards or fobs for every unit to grant contractors access to specific apartments. While some properties will program a card or key fob as needed for all the units a contractor needs to access to complete a particular work order, this method requires multiple staff members to have programming privileges. The result is a system with little access restriction, which is in effect like giving these employees master keys.

As CNET says, “A smart lock doesn’t necessarily equal a safer lock.” Renters might be willing to pay more for keyless entry, but is it worth the added administrative burden, security risks and increased liability? To help you decide, download our whitepaper "Are Smart Locks a Smart Move for Your Multifamily Property?"