Smart doorbells are one of the most popular smart home technology items currently available, with popular brands including Nest and Ring. They allow homeowners to see people who approach their home via a video link, which they can access whether they are at home or out and about.
Most models also enable the owner to speak to the person via the doorbell – which typically starts at around £85 – allowing them to ward off potential intruders. However, there are concerns that having one installed could make you a target for burglary, researchers at Cranfield University found.
Smart doorbells could potentially put households at risk of being burgled, a new study shows
The researchers said the doorbells give an ‘affluence cue’ – in other words, they suggest that the person living inside is relatively well-off and more likely to have expensive technology contained within to steal.
Customers also need to be careful with what smart doorbells they purchase. A recent investigation found that some versions sold cheaply online could be easily switched off, stolen, or hacked by criminals.
So do smart doorbells really make your home more secure, or could they actually be a safety risk?
Kate Bevan, a computing editor said: ‘Smart doorbells can bring benefits but they also carry risks if they are poorly made and sold without any security checks or monitoring. ‘Legislation to tackle insecure products should be introduced without delay and must be backed by an enforcement body with teeth that is able to crack down on these devices. ‘We would urge the public to buy smart doorbells from known and trusted brands, or they might find it is hackers or thieves that come calling to their home.’
What do the insurers say?
This is Money contacted several major insurers to find out whether they reduce premiums for those with smart doorbells.
All said they do not currently ask if someone has a smart doorbell installed, so it’s not something that has an effect on premiums – at least with the big home insurers.
However, many mentioned that, from a claims point of view, footage from smart doorbells can be helpful in providing evidence of a break-in or other incident.
Martin Milliner, claims director at LV= General Insurance, said: ‘There are other smart devices that customers may wish to consider if they do want to lower the cost of home insurance, such as smart heating and water shut-off devices.’
A Direct Line spokesperson added: ‘Smart doorbells are becoming increasingly popular and are evolving in terms of functionality and connectivity.
‘We always encourage our customers to remain vigilant and take the necessary precautions when it comes to securing their home.’
The way home insurance costs are calculated is different for each insurer, with each firm judging the risk factor of a home by the answers they give when getting an insurance quote.
While most aren’t factoring in smart doorbells now, that’s not to say that they won’t in the future.
All insurers asked said they do not currently ask if someone has a smart doorbell installed
Ryan Fulthorpe, the home insurance expert at GoCompare, said: ‘I understand that only a few home insurance providers currently ask about whether a home is fitted with a smart doorbell in their quote journey, and I don’t believe that having a smart doorbell device would feed into the pricing of that insurance yet.
‘As these devices become more widespread in homes across the UK, then I’m sure insurers will factor in their use in their insurance risk and pricing.’
Chris King, head of home insurance at Compare the Market, added: ‘As smart home technology develops, we may see some providers offering discounts for particular security measures, or asking questions about devices to gather information for the future.’
Overall, it seems insurers believe a smart doorbell could be a useful tool for identification purposes – but there is little data to determine whether it could make the home a target or not.
One smart doorbell provider said customers insisted the devices ‘help them protect their homes.’
But as the investigation and the data from Cranfield University, customers should be careful what model they buy to ensure they are hard to hack.
Help: Smart doorbells help households see who is at their front door even if they are away
What do security experts say?
This is Money asked the Master Locksmiths Association whether smart doorbells are beneficial or not.
A spokesperson said: ‘Generally speaking, any security is better than none, however, it should follow the onion principle – homeowners shouldn’t rely on one single piece of equipment, but numerous layers to protect their property.
‘We wouldn’t advise smart doorbells are used in isolation, but in tandem with other measures.
‘Essentially, homeowners need to make their property too difficult to target so a potential intruder moves on.’
The spokesperson said it was also important to remember that many smart doorbells need a strong internet connection, and the technology might be compromised if the connection was weak or the internet went down.
They added that there is always the need for robust door and window hardware in any property, regardless of what smart technology was in use.
Having CCTV installed is one way to keep your property safe when you are away from home
How you can keep your property safe?
The Master Locksmiths Association has provided tips homeowners can follow to keep themselves and their properties safe:
Ensure your house is properly secured before you leave: Check all doors and windows, including garage doors and rear entrances, ensure all locks are correctly fitted and work as they should. Locks should be fitted by a professional and function properly.
Don’t make it obvious if your home is empty: Cancel regular deliveries such as newspapers to avoid a build-up, and consider setting up a Royal Mail Keepsafe account that holds mail for up to 66 days and delivers it the day after you return home.
Use a timer system: Having a timer on household lights requires very little effort, and can work as an excellent deterrent against would-be thieves. Simply set the lights to come on as it gets dark to create the impression someone is home.
Consider using a device that emits light similar to a TV: Make sure these are in rooms where a burglar can’t see in from the outside. External lighting is also important as burglars don’t want to be seen.
Leave a spare key with a trusted person: Give a neighbor, friend, or relative a key if you go away and ask them to pop in to check your property and remove any post. You could ask if they want to park their car on your drive, so it appears like there’s someone at home.
CCTV systems: These can be remotely monitored, allowing you to keep an eye on your property from wherever you are in the world via the internet so you can easily check up on your property using your laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
Windows: As the temperature warms up, chances are homeowners want to throw open their windows. If so, they should consider using a restrictor lock that prevents windows from opening more than a fixed distance. Opt for one that has been tested and approved by an independent test and certification company, such as Sold Secure which is recognized by the Home Office, insurers, and police.
Don’t forget the great outdoors: Timed lighting outside can deter a burglar, as they are more likely to be spotted by neighbors. Tools, ladders, or other objects can be used to break into your home, so it’s important to ensure they are stored out of sight in well-secured sheds, outhouses, and garages.
Consider getting a safe: Get one professionally specified and fitted to keep valuables out of sight. Paperwork such as bank statements and ID documents should also be stored away in a lockable cabinet, as personal data has a value and can be sold on by the burglar.
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