August’s CEO on lock hacking and releasing hardware before it’s ready

August launched a new device this week at CES. “That’s five products shipped within 24 months,” explained CEO Jason Johnson during an on stage interview with TechCrunch earlier today. “I don’t know if you’re going to find too many companies that have our retail presence and a customer base that ships that many products in that time.”

It’s a lot for a hardware startup – arguable too much for one with only 80 employees. “Oh,” the exec added candidly, “it’s absolutely too fast.”

He pulled a device from his jacket pocket to better illustrate the point. “I’ll confess that we shipped this doorbell camera in 2016 and it wasn’t ready. We didn’t have DVR. Our customers took to Twitter and Amazon reviews [where the product is hovering around 2.5 stars], asking how we could release a camera without a DVR. That’s what happens when you go too fast.”

Even today the CEO found himself responding directly to consumer complaints on Twitter. “Yes we can, and will, make it better,” he answered one customer who used a CES event tweet as an in to voice his concern.

He addresses the issue with a welcome bit of candor, but Johnson is quick to add that hasty pushes to market don’t apply to the work that the company has been doing on the security side – an understandably hot topic in the world of connected locks.

Over the summer, software engineer/hacker Jmaxxz discovered an exploit, a way into the company’s lock that took advantage of its guest feature, extended access beyond the period of time implemented by its owner. Johnson explained that Jmaxxz shared the information directly with August. The startup, which outsources much of its security to third-party firms, went to work, according to the exec.

“There was a SWAT team that was put together to validate what he was showing us,” he explained. “[To discover] how many people might be affected and then, communicate with them, and then, of course, rapidly get the patch in place.”

Transparency, Johnson added, is the key. “We have to be transparent,” he explained. “The FBI and CIA use August locks on safe houses throughout the world.”