Alexa can now control your alarm system: Is this safe?

Amazon Echo Alexa
Greg Mombert/Digital Trends

ADT just announced that it is adding new features for its security-system customers. The security and automation company now has an “ADT Pulse Alexa” skill available for new and existing home automation customers. ADT is leading the pack, as one of the first companies to provide its customers the ability to disarm their alarm systems using voice commands and a pin.

ADT Pulse customers can have Alexa-enabled devices, like the Echo or Echo Dot, installed in their homes, which will provide Pulse subscribers with access to the arm and disarm voice command features. Customers can also use the voice command features to complete other tasks (lock and unlock the door, turn on and off interior and exterior lights, close the garage door, and others), and Alexa will provide the user with a confirmation once the system has completed the action.

“A smart home is not always a safe home. Integrating ADT Pulse with Amazon Alexa voice service provides a more efficient, and equally as important, a safe approach, to hands-free home automation,” said Jamie Haenggi, chief marketing officer at ADT. “We look forward to enhancing our product interactions, backed by our 20,000 employees dedicated to keeping our customers safe.”

ADT Pulse Alexa’s security is not conducted through voice recognition; instead, the security comes from the user’s PIN number. If you ask Alexa to perform a task that involves opening, unlocking, or disarming, you’ll have to say your four-digit PIN to get the system to complete the task. If you say your pin incorrectly three consecutive times over the course of a few days, your Alexa device will disassociate from ADT and will no longer recognize ADT commands. You will have to follow a series of steps to get things up and running again.

Here are a few examples of the types of commands ADT Pulse Alexa understands:

  • Alexa, ask ADT to arm the system.
  • Alexa, ask ADT to disarm the system with 1234
  • Alexa, ask ADT to check the status of the security system
  • Alexa, ask ADT to unlock the Front Door Lock with 9876
  • Alexa, ask ADT to turn off the Light
  • Alexa, ask ADT to open the Garage Door with 1234

If you have a lot of traffic in and out of your house (you have a lot of workers in your home, or you have guests over often), it is possible for someone to overhear your PIN number when you say it aloud. While ADT Pulse Alexa is protected by a PIN, you may frequently say the pin aloud, as opposed to quietly typing it into a keypad as you would with an alarm system that’s not voice controlled.

For that reason, it’s a good idea to use extra caution, and be mindful of who’s around when you’re providing ADT Pulse Alexa with PIN-protected commands.