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IoT Makes Home-Sharing Security Convenient, At A Cost

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IoT Makes Home-Sharing Security Convenient, At A Cost

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Airbnb may have transformed travel in many ways, but it still has its fair share of niggling issues: you may look suspicious whilst loitering around the premises waiting for the host to turn up with the keys; there might be a “trick” to actually unlocking the door once you have them.

As it has in many areas, the Internet of Things (IoT) is about to make proceedings much smoother in this regard. The Verge reports a new venture from August Home has created a system whereby guests only need a code to enter their Airbnb apartments. A new code will be created for each guest, to be expired at the end of the guest’s stay.

Initially, August suggested the project was a collaboration between Airbnb and themselves, but as The Verge article explains, Airbnb have distanced themselves from it. There could be good reason for this. This code-based system sounds convenient on paper, but in practice it’s actually part of a dangerous trade-off. In many ways, this IoT technology prizes convenience at the expense of security.

Industry leaders have cast doubt on current efficacy of smart security

In many cases, smart security puts the emphasis on the smart rather than the security. August Home’s Airbnb locks are convenient, and impressive from a technical standpoint. But that doesn’t automatically make them safe. In fact, it could mean the very opposite.

When advising homeowners on how to choose a front door lock, security experts have been increasingly warning of the drawbacks of smart home security. Established door lock providers Banham state that “the ‘smartest’ lock you can get for your home is one which keeps your home safe.” To them, that’s what choosing a “smart” lock is all about.

The implications of this is that smart door locks should not gain precedence over non-smart locks by default. Adding online capabilities might be tantamount to technological advancement in most cases, but when the technology in question is intended to keep people physically secure, it’s not that straightforward.

One of the key criticisms of smart home security has been of its IoT-connected nature. Since so many household appliances will be connected to the same network, and so many of these devices will be improperly secured, there’s a huge risk that hackers could gain access to the lock via a WiFi-enabled fridge or fish tank. With flaws as glaring as this, Airbnb hosts should exercise caution when considering a smart lock solution.

Greater security vs greater convenience for holiday-makers

Despite these concerns, a keycode-enabled smart lock might still be appealing to those wishing to open up their homes to holiday-makers for its sheer convenience. Handing over a set of keys in person will always be more difficult than texting a code. If it wasn’t for all the drawbacks, the code method would actually be safer in a way. Copying too many sets of keys can lead to break-ins. Unless you have keys which cannot be copied, there’s nothing stopping Airbnb guests with bad intentions from copying the keys you give them and returning as unwelcome guests at a later date.

The reality is, though, that most smart home security devices are not ready to be used as a primary means of protection. One recently-released smart padlock could even be foiled by a simple household screwdriver. Granted, this was a particularly ineffective product, but this is something you would never find with a conventional, non-smart lock.

The choice comes down to increased convenience for holiday-makers, or increased security for your home. In the long term, only one of them is feasible.

Ubiquitous Airbnb could induce mass adoption

There is, however, an upside to this development. If Airbnb ever did officially endorse a smart lock like August Home’s it could lead to widespread adoption, and therefore improved functionality and security for these devices. Established security firms who have warned of smart security’s dangers could take a stab at crafting smart locks of their own, bringing decades of experience to the practice.

Unfortunately, for this to happen, many Airbnb hosts would have to adopt smart locks in their current state. While they may well never face a break-in themselves, the fact that they could is enough to advise against it. Perhaps there’s a reason Airbnb distanced themselves from August Home’s smart lock in the first place.

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