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How Often Do Alarm Security Codes Need to be Changed?

Keep Your Home Safe: Why and How Often to Change Your Alarm Codes

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Electronic lock systems offer homeowners numerous advantages, including keyless security and integrated alarm systems. One of the most common keyless access methods is the keypad, securing your doors with a numeric security code instead of a physical key. Standalone home alarms function similarly, employing security codes for arming and disarming.

While keypads are safe and reliable, eliminating the need to worry about keys, the homeowner still has a critical responsibility: practicing proper password safety and regularly changing the access code.

Learn about the basics of security code safety, how often you should change your alarm and keypad lock codes, and what code numbers you should avoid.

Basics of Security Code Safety: Why They Need to be Changed Regularly

If you've recently installed a new keypad-operated alarm system or a set of electronic keypad door locks, it likely came with a default code and instructions to change it as soon as possible.

Although it might be tempting to set and leave one code, most manufacturers and security experts recommend changing it regularly. The longer you use the code, the more likely it is to spread to people beyond yourself and your family. If you don't change the code, anyone who has used (or heard) it before can enter it again to access your property.

Additionally, repeatedly punching in the same digits to arm and disarm the lock or alarm will wear down the corresponding buttons. If you do not change the code regularly, the worn buttons effectively give away the correct numbers, and all a potential burglar has to do is figure out the correct order.

How Often Should You Change the Codes?

Although most security experts recommend regularly changing the keypad's access codes, you may find different answers about how often you should do so. The most common recommendation is to change it at least once every six months.

However, there are no complex rules; the vital part is to choose a code replacement schedule that works for you and your circumstances.

Choose a schedule that is neither too irregular nor too frequent—not changing it often enough risks leaving your code unsafe for extended periods. However, changing it too frequently increases the chance that you or someone you entrust with the code may forget it.

If the access code is for a home or business in a high-traffic area or if you regularly employ housekeeping services, consider a more frequent access code replacement schedule to increase security.

If you suspect an unauthorized individual may have accessed your alarm or door passcode, don't delay and change it as soon as possible.

a woman using the keypad on her smart lock to enter her homeHow to choose a robust alarm code for your home security system or even a smart lock.iStock

How to Choose a Strong Alarm Code?

When it's time to change your access codes, ensuring the new code is as safe as possible is vital. Here are the top five tips for choosing the safest alarm security codes.

1. Avoid the easiest / most commonly selected passcodes

Most alarms and keypad locks are configured with either 4-digit or 6-digit passcodes, which makes them similar to PIN codes.

According to data compiled by a joint team of American and German IT specialists, the most common passcodes are as follows:

  • 4-digit codes: 0000, 0852, 1111, 1212, 1234, 1998, 2222, 2580, 5555, 5683
  • 6-digit codes: 000000, 111111, 112233, 121212, 123123, 123456, 654321, 159753, 666666, 789456

When encountering a keypad alarm or electronic lock, burglars and unauthorized individuals often try the most common codes. Therefore, you should avoid using these for your home security systems.

Also, avoid leaving the factory default passcode, even if it doesn't correspond to any of the most common passcodes. Well-informed burglars may research the make and model of your keypad on the internet, where they can easily find factory default access codes.

Example: The default Master Code on many standard Honeywell alarm systems is typically 1234.

2. Don't use meaningful numbers as passcodes

It is common for homeowners to configure a 4-digit code after a birth year, such as 1984. Similarly, 6-digit codes resemble calendar dates, such as birth dates or other significant dates. For example, 06/15/1976 can correspond to 061576. Other commonly used meaningful numbers include favorite numbers, zip codes, or the last digits of a phone number.

However, you should avoid basing your access codes on these numbers because it makes it easier to defeat. Determined hackers and burglars may try to find information about you using resources such as social media, which can give clues regarding your security codes.

3. Use the most extended allowable code length

Although the most common access codes are 4 or 6 digits long, most keypad manufacturers let you enter much longer codes, eight or even ten digits long. Always use the maximum allowable passcode length; the longer, the less likely an unauthorized person is to guess it.

a person punching in their code on their home security keypadTry not to write down your codes to arm and disarm your home security systemsiStock

4. Try not to write the code down

The best passwords are known to none except yourself. Although you may be tempted to write a complex, difficult-to-remember code down to avoid memorizing it, doing so creates an additional security risk.

Writing access codes down requires you to ensure that both your passcode and the medium used to write it down are secure, which may make the code overall less safe. Although there are methods to mitigate the security risk, like writing dummy numbers around the real passcode, it is generally not recommended.

If you do decide to write the access code down, use mitigation methods, do not leave it next to the keypad or in an easily accessed area, and do not annotate it with an identifier, such as "House alarm passcode: 123456".

5. Practice proper passcode safety

Although replacing your front door locks with keypad-operated electronic systems can improve security, your home is only as safe as the passcode. Disclose the code to the fewest number of people possible and only to the individuals you trust the most, such as family members.

Study your keypad's features and functions and check whether you can assign temporary or single-use passcodes to guests, housekeeping services, and similar individuals. These functions allow you to maintain your primary passcode secret and avoid changing it prematurely.

For additional security and if your keypad model allows you, consider programming multiple passcodes, such as one for each house occupant. Besides keeping the primary passcode secret, it can also provide valuable security information regarding who is coming and going.

For example, if you've assigned passcode 454781 to a family member you know isn't currently in the state, it may indicate that an unauthorized individual has gained access to the house.

If you need help finding an excellent smart home security system, don't forget to use The GearBrain. Our product find engine can help you find, buy, and connect any smart home security system, device, and camera. It can even help you find one that is compatible with any existing smart security device you already have in your smart home.

How GearBrain Helps You Find, Buy and Connect Smart Locks Faster Than AmazonIn this video we demonstrate how GearBrain can make buying smart locks on Amazon easier. We show how our filtering can ...

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