Smart doorbells may be signalling to burglars that you have something worth stealing

Graham Cluley
@gcluley

Call me old-fashioned if you like, but I don’t have a smart doorbell.

I’m happy to wait until I open the door, or peek through the little window, before finding out who has come to my doorstep.

Frankly, at the moment as there’s a global pandemic going on, the chances are that it will be a delivery person anyway, who has already dumped a package and jumped in his van to scarper away.

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I realise there may be people who do feel they have a genuine need for a more high-tech system than mine, and I sympathise with that. But it’s simply not for me. And the thought of having a video camera on my door that is connected to the internet? No thank you.

Nonetheless, I’m interested in the technology and have been monitoring closely the security and privacy issues that have bubbled up with IoT doorbells over the years.

So I was interested to hear about a new report from the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST), which declares that not only are smart doorbells like the Amazon Ring “unlikely” to have “any significant effect on residential burglary” rates, but also might actually increase the risk of burglary.

CREST argues that the mere existence of smart doorbells and locks may help criminals identify properties with potentially high-value items to steal:

“These are devices that are particularly noticeable due to their deployment on the exterior of properties and can thus increase the salience of affluence cues – experienced burglars use these cues to identify properties with potentially more high-value items, during the target selection phase.”

“Smart doorbells could become a strong cue to the relative affluence of properties. But with a relatively low number of smart locks currently deployed in the UK, it is unlikely that even experienced burglars will routinely come across these devices anytime soon.”

Of course, if you are unfortunate enough to be burgled then a camera might help the authorities identify the criminals, or suspicious individuals who may have approached your house in the run-up to the break-in. So it would be unfair to suggest that they are entirely without merit.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking a smart video doorbell will necessarily reduce your chances of being burgled. As Cranfield University’s Dr Duncan Hodges told The Register, you might be wiser enhancing the security at the back of your house rather than just focusing on the front door:

“If you are interested in securing your home, the best way is to take the £90 you would spend on a [smart] doorbell and upgrade the locks at your property’s rear and install window locks.

“It’s not cool or trendy, but it’ll make a real difference. As with everything in security, it’s no good securing the property’s front but having the rear of the property being vulnerable.”

Secure all points of entry folks. Criminals often will not choose to come in through the front door, but through a weak point where they think they are unlikely to be spotted.

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Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.

2 comments on “Smart doorbells may be signalling to burglars that you have something worth stealing”

  1. …£90 you would spend on a [smart] doorbell and upgrade the locks at your property’s rear and install window locks.

    Ha ! £90 for that lot… no doubt "available at any good hardware store". Come on, a pukka snap-proof Europrofile barrel is £50, so that exceeds the budget just for front/back doors. No good having dodgy doors anyway, add £600. Similar for windows.

    Biggest thug my cams spotted whilst 1000 miles away was a vastly overweight candidate for MP, who peered at this/that whilst wobbling. I'm still in therapy.

    None of the above is a recommendation for some random cloud doorbell, sending data anywhere.

  2. Couple the widespread adoption of doorbell cameras with face recognition technology demonstrated by companies like Clearview, and we've arrived at an Orwellian society, where, if you have to go on the run from the authorities for whatever reason, and you pass one of these devices in the street, you can be traced and arrested fairly quickly! Remember, the authorities are not always right.

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