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Should I Get a Smart Lock for My House, or Stick With a Deadbolt?

Q: My home has been broken into on more than one occasion in recent years, and I’m looking for the best way to secure it. Should I stick with a traditional deadbolt lock with a key, or should I upgrade to a smart lock?

A: The sad truth, according to several locksmiths we spoke to, is that if someone really wants to break in to your home, they’ll probably be able to. The question is how long it will take — burglars in crowded neighborhoods rarely want to be seen fiddling with a lock.

“All locks are pickable,” said George Abramian, owner of Geo Locksmith, in south Brooklyn. “Everything that gets locked, gets unlocked.”

Indeed, after testing popular models of both traditional and smart locks, our colleagues at Wirecutter found that quite a few were easily picked, often within minutes.

After the tests, Wirecutter ultimately recommended one traditional lock (the Schlage B60N, which is “extremely difficult to lockpick”) and one smart lock (the UltraLoq U-Bolt Pro Wifi, which is opened using fingerprints, a keypad or a traditional key).

The locksmiths we interviewed recommended that customers buy the lock that they’re most comfortable with — as long as it has a deadbolt. Also, smart locks should come with a traditional key in case of battery failure.

A smart lock, which is linked to an app, can be more convenient, especially if you live in an apartment building and don’t have a convenient place to hide a spare key, or if you need to let someone in remotely, such as a cat sitter. Keep in mind, though, that some apartment buildings have old doors that won’t accommodate smart locks. And some buildings don’t allow them, said Joe Ferrick, owner of the Flying Locksmiths in New York City and Long Island.

What about hackers? We asked Atul Prakash, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan, whether buyers should be worried about security problems with smart locks.

There’s always a risk for any network-connected device to be compromised, even if the odds are small, said Dr. Prakash, whose students successfully hacked a smart lock. He advised smart-lock users to pair the device with an additional sensor that alerts the resident when the door is opened or closed, and to be aware of software security updates.

“Just like any other computer, if the software becomes out of date, that can introduce security vulnerabilities,” Dr. Prakash said.

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