If you’ve ever experienced a break-in, you know that a traditional lock and key isn’t enough to deter a motivated criminal. Home security systems provide backup for your locks with various sensors and alarms. These not only spook a burglar into fleeing the scene but also alert you and the authorities for a quick response. By having multiple layers of protection in place, such as keypad door locks, glass break sensors, motion detectors, window and door alarms, and security cameras, you can reduce the chances that the criminal will successfully enter your home.

While you’re focused on keeping your home secure from physical attacks, don’t forget to also protect your equipment from cyberattacks. Did you know that someone can potentially log in to your security account and change your settings, control your home automation devices, or even spy on you through your cameras? It’s necessary to apply the same “multiple layers of protection” logic to your home security passwords and codes to deter this kind of activity. Whereas a single code represents a simple barrier for a clever hacker to bypass, multiple levels of authorization—called two-factor authentication—give your home security system a far more effective layer of protection.

Home Security Passwords

Many modern home security systems connect to Wi-Fi and can be controlled and monitored remotely by the homeowners … and by data hackers. For example, if you only use a basic password to log in to the app or cloud account to view your video feeds, this password has the potential to be mined by technologically savvy thieves. With your password, they can now control your home devices and even see your camera feeds. A password—a single layer of protection—isn’t enough to safeguard your home security system against nefarious use. Instead, you need two-factor authentication.

What Is Two-Factor Authentication?

Two-factor authentication (2FA) requires a password (the first authentication factor) and an additional security code (the second authentication factor). Critically, the second authentication factor should go through a completely different channel than the first password. 

For example, consider how two-factor authentication works when enabled on an email account. First, you enter the password into your account, and then you receive a random code to your phone via a call or text. If you’re who you say you are, you’ll have access to the phone number associated with the account and can put in the code. Bank cards also use two-factor authentication by requiring a PIN before approving a transaction.

Two-factor authentication focuses on information only you would know or something that only you would have. Therefore, the second authentication factor could be your thumbprint, face recognition, voice recognition, or even a retinal scan in high-tech situations. It could be tied to a separate device (such as a phone) or an account (such as an email account). Information only you would know includes PINs or security questions such as “Who was your favorite high school teacher?”

Consider Two-Factor Authentication When Shopping for Home Security

A home security system should give you peace of mind, not introduce a new element of risk into your life by making you an easy target for hackers. When shopping for a home security provider, look for one that protects your data with two-factor authentication.

Two-factor authentication also works with home security systems that don’t have mobile apps or cloud-based technology that requires you to sign in to an account. Protect your home with two layers of codes—a keypad door lock (or a key fob) could act as the “first factor,” followed by a separate code that disarms the main security alarm as the “second factor.” Change the codes for both on a regular basis for additional security. 

These home security companies—and more—offer two-factor authentication:

What’s Next?

Is your home security system really as “secure” as it can be? It may be time to switch to a provider that offers two-factor authentication for true peace of mind. Otherwise, someone could be watching you without your knowledge. Before you make a switch, contact your current home security provider to ask if it already has two-step authentication measures in place. If not, when does it plan to implement this protocol? 

If you don’t currently have a home security system, consider two-factor authentication as a top priority when purchasing equipment and a monitoring plan. Check out our comprehensive review of home security companies for help finding a company that takes your cybersecurity just as seriously as your physical safety. Regardless of which security company you ultimately trust with your family’s safety, use a completely unique password for your home security account (don’t repeat the password you use for your email, streaming services, etc.) and change it every month to thwart hackers. These smart steps will help increase the effectiveness of your two-factor authentication system.

About the Authors

Cathy Habas is a home writer for Reviews.com. Over the last six years, she's covered home security, home improvement, and landscaping for sites like Safety.com, Hunker, and more.