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Security experts: New Amazon Key system comes with risks

October 27, 2017

Vivian Motti

Security or convenience? That’s the conundrum facing Amazon Prime members as they entertain the idea of allowing strangers into their homes to deliver packages instead of leaving them on their front door steps where they could easily be stolen.

The new “Amazon Key” system unveiled this week would make home deliveries much more convenient. The remotely programmable system allows vetted delivery people access to the front door. The system, which requires a camera, a “smart” lock and a mobile application, will allow homeowners to watch the delivery from their phones.

But George Mason University’s Vivian Motti and James “Jim” Jones worry potential risks outweigh any advantages.

“I think there’s a larger breach for exploitation at this point,” said Motti, an assistant professor in George Mason’s Department of Information Sciences and Technology. “The camera may help to record evidences in case adverse events occur; however, it may not be effective to properly prevent those, besides posing additional privacy issues. I don’t see a scenario in which the benefits [to the Amazon Key system] are greater than the risks associated to it.”

James Jones

Jones, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, says the system “solves the not-so-small problem of packages being stolen when left out,” but worries about security concerns if a customer’s phone were stolen or compromised. Additionally, he wondered, what if a delivery person sees something illegal inside a home such as drugs, or children left alone. Such possible scenarios could be cause for heated legal debates.

Motti wasn’t sold the convenience of the “Amazon Key” system was worth the added risks.

“Maybe for the general public it can be convincing,” she said. “Knowing the security issues that bank industry and other safety critical systems recently faced, I would not be one of the first adopters, but would wait until more consolidated solutions emerge.”

Vivian Motti can be reached at 703-993-5868 or

James Jones can be reached at 703-993-5599 or

For more information, contact John Hollis at 703-993-8781 or

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George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 36,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility.