Your home is a fortress, or so it is supposed to be. Yet a slow but potentially deadly infection has been creeping in over the past few years. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a topic that you will hear mentioned when people talk about the future of technology. The truth, however, is that IoT is already all around us. If you have a home security system, as an example, chances are high that you can control it using an app on your Smartphone. Many other devices have some degree of internet connectivity. These include home air conditioning systems, Smart TVs, smart lighting systems, home audio systems, and smoke detectors. The list is big and growing. Yet most people do not take a moment to query the implications of IoT on security. 

Security concerns around IoT devices

The Internet of Things is wonderful and inevitable. Yet movement towards greater connectivity around the home and office raises a number of concerns; 

  • Vulnerabilities on one device can become a gateway for attacks on other devices: This is the first concern as far as the Internet of Things is concerned. Let’s assume that your phone is connected to your home security system. What then happens should someone be able to hack into your phone? In all probability, it means they will be able to get into your house. The concern here is that vulnerabilities on one device expose others to attack. At the moment, you are probably just worried about security on your Smartphone and on your computer. Should one of these devices be compromised, the potential for harm is limited to that specific device. However, with IoT, the potential for harm grows exponentially as more and more devices are connected. 
  • IoT means an increase in the number of possible points of attack: As more and more things become interconnected, your vulnerabilities increase because there are now more potential points of attack for those looking to illegally acquire your information. IoT devices gather a lot of data about you, some of which can potentially be harmful if it falls into the wrong hands. 
  • Vulnerability to snooping is another major concern for IoT devices. If you have a home security system, as an example, what’s to prevent voyeurs from tuning in and spying on you? 

How to protect your devices in an IoT environment

The point of this article is not to scare you out of love with Smart devices. As already noted, IoT is inevitable, in spite of the inherent security challenges. Fortunately, there are a number of steps that can be taken by individuals to protect themselves in an IoT environment; 

Use a VPN

The first solution to the issue of security vulnerabilities in an IoT environment is the use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). There are many VPNs out there, some free, some paid. A VPN is a great way of ensuring that personal data does not fall into the wrong hands, but how does this work? We have already noted that a major challenge for IoT devices is that they gather personal information about their users. A lot can be gleaned, as an example, about you by simply analysing data from your home security system. If you use a VPN, however, the threat is reduced dramatically. But how does it work? Well, VPNs are great as far as IoT devices are concerned because they encrypt data coming from these devices. VPNs also hide other personal information, such as your location and IP address. This virtually eliminates most of the security concerns given above. 

Use anti-malware software on all your products

This is the second step that you can take to enhance the security of your IoT environment. Most people have anti-viruses on their computers. However, very few people ever bother to get protection for their Smartphones and tablets. These then become potential points of attack for those that are looking to steal your data. 

Have strong passwords

You can also enhance the security for your IoT systems through the use of strong passwords. A lot of people use a single password across their devices. This leaves them vulnerable in the event that the password is compromised. There are also people whose passwords are not strong enough. Others use their birthdays as passwords. You should, in any case, make sure that you use strong passwords across your IoT devices to protect against the loss of precious data. 

Keep your devices updated

You can also protect your IoT devices by making sure that they get regular firmware updates. If you have an Android Smartphone, as an example, make sure that it gets all the latest firmware updates. The same applies for other smart devices around your home and office. 

Should I be worried?

Yes, you should be very worried about the security of your IOT systems. Most people make the mistake of underestimating the number of connected devices around them. However, even the smallest and seemingly harmless gadget has the potential to become a point of vulnerability.  Just to give an example, if you have the latest Bose headphones wireless version, they will have the Bose App which will be connected to your Smartphone. The same applies to headphones and audio systems from other manufacturers. 

They will get regular updates from the manufacturer using the App. And your phone will be connected to your home security system. These are just examples of points of connectivity in an IoT environment. Something as commonplace as headphones has the potential to become a point of vulnerability through which data can be stolen. And nobody ever bothers to create antimalware systems for headphones and other commonplace devices. Yet, vulnerabilities on one such device open gateways for attacks on others. So, you need to be careful to make sure that everything is secure. And a VPN is one way through which you can protect yourself. 

How VPNs protect your IoT systems

Just to sum up what we have been saying above, it’s clear that having a VPN is the way to go as far as security IoT environments is concerned. But how does it all work? When you install your VPN, traffic is routed through an intermediary server. This ensures that nothing can be traced back to your home. Traffic is also encrypted when using a VPN, which adds to security for your IoT devices.  What do you think? Do you feel secure in an IoT environment? If you have comments and questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.