Whether it’s traditional locks or new Wi-Fi monitoring systems, home security is a must.

It’s Wednesday afternoon, and you’re rushing around town trying to do some last-minute errands. Just as you get to the check-out line, you get an alert on your phone that your garage door opened. That seems odd, because you know your husband will be working from his company office all day. Before abandoning all of your groceries to rush home and check on your garage door, you use your phone to log into your wireless security cameras to check the utility room camera feed that shows the door between the basement and the house. Well, well, well. It looks like your college-aged son has decided to pop over unannounced to start on some laundry. 

Though this scenario turned out to be a harmless family intrusion, it just as easily could have alerted you to a break-in or other issue with your home.

Home security monitors can help both renters and homeowners feel secure in their homes. New technologies and home monitoring systems that connect to our smartphones, tablets, and computers allow the user to check on their home no matter if they’re out shopping, at work,  or even across the world.

In terms of monitors and items that connect into your Wi-Fi system, Lieutenant David Williams of the Jefferson City Police Department says to make sure they are secure. “It’s like anything else with technology — it does give the opportunity to hack into it and allow people to get into your systems,” he says. “Someone who is tech-savvy can go into your unsecured Wi-Fi, and they can access everything you have on your system, including the cameras you’re using to protect and monitor your house.”

Securing Your Devices

Best practices for your other devices also apply to your home security system: Try to use two-factor authentication when possible and don’t reuse passwords that might be shared with other accounts. Just like with other devices, be sure to also run the recommended software updates to keep your system up-to-date.  

Additional Ways to Secure Your Home

Home security monitors can be convenient, but many can require high-speed internet and fast Wi-Fi for the cameras to function properly. However, there are other ways to improve your home security.

“There are multiple ways to secure your homes aside from the monitoring companies on the market,” Williams says.

Along with unmowed yards and unshoveled walks, the amount of uncollected mail is an excellent way to determine if the home is unoccupied. “If you’re going to be out of town, you can have your mail stopped or ask your neighbors to pick up for you,” Williams says. “During Christmas, we talk a lot about packages being left on the front step.” 

Williams also recommends making sure your door locks are functioning properly, checking all windows regularly, and putting away ladders instead of leaving them outside, where someone could use them to enter your second floor. “Some of the best ways to avoid becoming a victim are to not leave things open or leave ladders around that aid people in getting into the house,” he says.

“Day-to-day, it is important to always pay attention when you get home to notice if the door was unlocked and whether the sliding glass door has been opened,” Williams says, “Being vigilant for changes is key.”

“Locks are your protection and alarms are your detection.” 

— Kevin Hunton

In terms of other tips for home security, Kevin Hunton, president of Tyler’s Lock and Key Service, says: “Locks are your protection and alarms are your detection. If it were me, I would want to install good, quality locks first.” 

Tyler’s Lock and Key Service is the oldest security company in Jefferson City, and Kevin is a third-generation president of the family business. In addition to locks, they also offer quality home safe installs.

There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to both traditional locks and keypads. “Keys are obviously something you have to carry with you. Keypads are a convenience if you remember the code, but then having to remember the code and maintain the battery are the disadvantages,” Kevin says. Another disadvantage with a keypad is that people could look over your shoulder and get your code. He adds that keys are also easier to lose or misplace, and people can make copies of keys if they find one.

Kevin adds, in terms of the actual strength of the lock, you get what you pay for when using high-security deadbolts. “These keys can’t be copied because it’s a patented key that has to go back to the original seller,” he says. “Medeco is one of the oldest high-security lock manufacturers. The key blanks are shipped directly from the factory to the locksmith.” These types of high-security locks feature key cuts that are angles, which is part of why they are considered pick-resistant.

When looking to make updates to your home security, you’ll want to do your research. Aside from comparing security systems, you may also want to ask friends, family, or even a trusty neighbor for their opinion to help you make a well-informed decision. All in all, you must find a security plan that works best to protect you and your family.

How do they compare?

Smart video doorbells allow users to safely answer the door from home or elsewhere. They also allow for video surveillance at the front door to help stop package theft and let you see who has been in front of your home.

The Ring Video Doorbell ($100) connects to your Wi-Fi and is fairly simple to install yourself. It can operate wirelessly with its built-in battery, or you can connect it to your home’s current doorbell wiring. Ring will send an alert to your smartphone or tablet whenever someone rings your doorbell or when motion is detected. Ring will then send you an alert with live-stream video and audio so you can talk to the person at the door. However, without buying the additional Ring Video Recording, you won’t be able to view the video when you miss an alert or live event. Ring offers a basic plan ($3 a month or $30 for the year per device) and a “Protect” plan ($10 a month or $100 per year) to review any videos and download them. The Protect plan also covers unlimited Ring cameras and gives you a lifetime product warranty. Ring requires 1 megabit per second internet speed.

Google Nest Hello ($229) is a similar video doorbell that also connects to your Wi-Fi. Unlike Ring, Nest Hello must be attached to a wired doorbell and chime, and it’s best to be installed by a professional. Nest also encrypts your connections and has two-step verification to add security. It offers HD video that is clear no matter the time of day and streams 24/7, rather than only streaming when motion activated. It also provides a 160-degree field of vision, detects strangers, and  recognizes packages and familiar faces. To utilize the video recording, users need to subscribe to Nest Aware. Google Nest Hello requires .8 megabits per second internet speed.

Blink ($89.96 ) wireless security cameras from Amazon are another way you can protect your home. They send motion-activated alerts and videos to your smartphone and don’t require contracts or connection wires. They require a Wi-Fi connection and feature two-way audio. All are easy to install yourself, and their lithium batteries can last up to two years. Blink also offers a weather-resistant option and an indoor   camera option. Blink bundles packages of cameras, depending on your needs. A single, basic outdoor/indoor camera starts at $89.96. Blink requires 2 megabits per second internet speed.

ADT is a traditional full home monitoring system (ranging from 36.99/month to 52.99/month, with installation costs starting at $99). It also offers great ways to secure your home, and they offer 24/7 monitoring and a full security system. Like the more DIY systems mentioned above, ADT also offers smartphone monitoring and connectivity to its services as well as a video doorbell and security camera feature. ADT is a full-service company that customizes your protection plans. Their packages and monitoring systems vary by user, since they tailor the plan to your specific needs. ADT requires 1.5 megabit per second internet speed.

To access these security systems through your phone, you must also download their applications. Be sure to attach your smart doorbell securely to your house to prevent thieves from stealing cameras.