Are Smart Locks a Smart Home Upgrade? A Leading Lock Expert Finds Out | WSJ

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(tool banging) – And that lock is open. – [Narrator] Locks like this are no match for Marc Tobias. He can easily break in using a widely available specialty key, known as a bump key. – These are the entire tools that you need to open about 95% of the pin
tumbler locks in America. – [Narrator] So that begs the question, (buttons beeping) is this smart lock the smarter upgrade? (keypad beeping)
– [Marc] Open. – [Narrator] We put that to Marc. He's been breaking into
locks since he was 15. – In high school, the conductor of the Denver Symphony got locked in the dressing room and I figured out how to get him out. – [Narrator] And now he
consults major lock corporations in finding security vulnerabilities. – These companies spend millions
of dollars designing things that sometimes we figure out how to break in 30 seconds.

– [Narrator] So what
better person to test this, the Nest x Yale Smart Lock, and help us decide is it really smart to install
a smart lock in your home? (playful music) The pandemic kept a lot of people at home, and interested in making
smart technology upgrades, from thermostats and plugs to lights and speakers. – Everything is moving towards smart locks in the industry. – [Narrator] So that's why we're testing the Nest x Yale Smart Lock. – [Lock] It should be
four to eight digits long, then press the check to continue. – [Narrator] It's a keyless lock that can be opened using a passcode or when connected to the Nest app. – [Marc] And as you see, it turns green. – [Narrator] It can be unlocked directly from your smartphone. – Okay. – [Narrator] So why did
we choose this lock? A few reasons.

It's a collaboration
of two major companies, Yale, one of the world's
oldest lock manufacturers, and Google Nest, a key
player in home automation. The lock doesn't have built-in Wi-Fi but the Nest Connect
system allows the lock to indirectly connect to Wi-Fi, which the company says saves battery life. It also has a privacy mode, which allows you to disable the keypad so the lock cannot be
opened with a pass code. The Nest x Yale Smart Lock sells for $279 with the Nest Connect system. And $249 without the system. Marc is testing the lock
with the Nest Connect. – Okay, this must be the Nest Connect. We have not had experience
with this lock before, so this will be new for us as well. – [Narrator] First, he
assessed the lock's hardware to understand how it functions. – This is the actual lock.

It's a brass finish. Very neat with a connectorized cable that goes through the door to the back portion so that the lock can
talk to the electronics. The interesting thing about this lock that you'll notice, there's no lock, which means it's a
computer-controlled deadbolt. There's no cylinder,
there's no bypass key. Some of the smart locks on the market have a cylinder or a bypass key.

There's pros and cons. And I should also note that
there's a steel insert, a little pin in the middle of this deadbolt that makes
sawing much more difficult. – [Narrator] Marc's business
partner, Tobias Bluzmanis, a 40-year locksmith, completed
the installation process. – Well, it seems pretty easy. – [Lock] Installation is complete and your lock is ready to be added to your Nest account. – [Narrator] Next, Marc tried
the convenience features on his phone. – If I hold my finger down on the app.

– [Narrator] One of them, mobile control. (motor buzzing) – [Marc] You can hear the
motor drive in the lock and now it shows me the status has locked. – [Narrator] Then Marc tracks
the lock's use on the app. This is also gonna give me a history of every time this lock has
been accessed, locked, unlocked. And it'll tell me by whom. This is a very clever app, especially if you have kids,
cleaning staff, gardening. You send them the code for two hours, one hour, whatever the time block is and then it'll automatically
cancel after that time block. – [Lock] Please try again in a moment. – [Narrator] Finally, Marc
gauged the smart lock's security and how it compared to
a regular lock and key. – This is a standard
five-pin tumbler cylinder. It's fairly old and it's really common
in the United States. Honestly, it's a good reason to replace this lock with a smart lock. In less than 10 seconds, Marc broke the regular lock open.

– And that lock is open. – [Narrator] Using a bump key. – And that's about normal. – Almost as fast, Tobias is
able to pick the same lock. – [Tobias] We got it open. – [Narrator] But doing so on a smart lock isn't as simple for Marc. – A regular locksmith
can't unlock this lock. He would have to either drill
it or forcibly remove it. – [Narrator] Still, with
a smart lock installed on the door, it doesn't automatically
mean the home is secure. – Of course, the real problem
is there's glass everywhere. The majority of attacks on homes are against the doors,
the strikes, the glass. – [Narrator] So after trying out the lock, does Marc think it's worth the price? – If you need the option,
it's definitely worth it. I would rate it as a five for a smart lock with the caveat it's not
a high-security lock, and we did not test
the electronic security as far as the ability to hack into it. Having said that, I would put
this on my condo if I could. It looks to me like it's
got all the options.

The other thing is you
don't need key copies, and copies of keys today can be expensive. So is it secure? It's probably as secure
as any conventional lock, maybe more so because you
can't bump this lock open, and you can't pick this lock open. So as far as vulnerabilities
on the mechanical side, we don't see any vulnerabilities. – [Narrator] A Yale spokesperson said, "Smart locks do offer an
added layer of security over strictly mechanical locks." She added, "The Nest x
Yale Lock is compatible with most doors with a
single cylinder deadbolt. And that the Nest x Yale Lock is compatible with most of
the residential market." – You need to put the cover back on? – Like that? I'll put the cover on.

(lively music).

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