With an increasing number of books, movies, and games talking about a dystopian cyberpunk future, it is easy to lose ourselves in this futuristic fantasy. While you will need a good IoT VPN to protect your Roomba from being hacked and attacked, many generations will pass before you are the one vacuuming the floor for it.
In our fear of thinking machines, we fail to realize that the biggest threat to our cybersecurity and the safety of our data comes from the fact that they don’t think. AI assistants are made to serve as many people as possible and to be operated remotely, and they can’t always tell if it’s you commanding them or not.
Thankfully, protecting the Internet of Things (IoT) accessed by our devices can be a natural extension to our existing cybersecurity systems. Companies like Le VPN have devised solutions to protect our whole home.
Having an IoT VPN is quite simple, and it will do for your autonomous devices the same thing it does for your smartphone and computer.
What Exactly is the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things is an umbrella term for all devices that send and receive data without direct human input or oversight.
As this includes an enormous number of different devices, it is important to plan your security system with a holistic approach. Using both software, hardware, and the connection itself as a line of defense will ensure that you don’t need to overthink your whole system integrity every time you buy a microwave.
Inside the Internet of Things, devices talk both with a server and with each other, sending predetermined information. While this information can depend on their programming, it is not always a question of firmware, meaning that it can be manipulated.
The biggest issue with IoT is the lack of oversight.
The whole point of IoT is to make your life easier by making the machines more capable of assisting you without your express command. This creates a problem when someone succeeds in commandeering one of these devices, as you could be harboring a spy in your own home without even knowing it.
Server-Based Smart Devices
Most IoT devices are server-based. They have a connection to some sort of company server that tells them what to do and how, and it uses that information to serve its purpose.
These devices may still talk to each other, for instance how an Amazon Echo (using Alexa) would speak to a HiFi, or a robotic vacuum cleaner, but would refer to the server for most information. Additionally, you will usually be able to use your smartphone to control such devices, provided that you have access to this server as well.
The fact that they will take commands from the server is the main security issue for these devices, as any intrusion to that server, which may serve millions of devices, would be a security threat for your home and personal data. An IoT VPN is a good precaution measure here, as the anonymous VPN connection would prevent you from being targeted directly through your IP address.
Although devices that don’t need a server are currently rare, their number has been on a steady rise in the last few years.
From the AC to the lighting system, to even some security installations, they are made to work on their own. Best IoT devices will have their internal security systems, but most will lack any sophisticated mode of defense from the inside.
For instance, modern security systems will not be operated remotely but would record video and sense movement at all times, and just send that information to your phone or the police in one-way communication. This would prevent an outsider from entering a server or router and disabling the security by disabling the connection.
These devices may have fewer security concerns, but they have less oversight as well. Apart from an IoT VPN, you would also benefit from regular maintenance here, just to know if everything is working as it should be.
How do Machines Talk
The advancements of AI have given us a huge insight in the mind of the machine, and while we are still far away from philosophical discussions Shirow Masamune mentions in the manga ”Ghost in the Shell”, we should be aware that machine thinking is not the same as ours. They don’t see or sense the same thing as biological beings.
This issue becomes for cybersecurity, especially in these early days. Rudimentary AI, however strange it would seem to us, is still a childlike level of intelligence and behavior, although with incredibly more technical data.
And, it is tricked in much of the same ways as children would be.
The goal of a hacker would be to infiltrate your system and disguise themselves as someone who should have access, someone who isn’t a stranger. Then they will tell your machines that they need to do their bidding because they are the user or a friend of the owner.
Finally, in the same way as most child kidnappings are done by people who live close and know the child and the family from before, hackers with personal data on you have a distinct advantage in accessing your IoT devices.
To protect your IoT appliances, you will first need to protect your personal information.
Benefits of IoT
It is hard to overstate the improvement in the quality of life with ‘’robotic butlers’’.
While not yet on the level of being androids with towels over their hand, and will probably never be, our IoT devices are not so much tools as artificial servants that make our life easier and better. And the main benefit is that they are able to talk with each other, organizing their chores and duties even when we are not around.
Mechanization always made life easier, but with IoT, this is focused on your home. For instance, your smart refrigerator may notice that there are some foods lacking in it, order them online and have them delivered by a remote drone. This will still be the food you want and told the fridge to stock up from time to time, but you won’t need to tell it again.
Ease of Service
Because of the information sharing between appliances, every service provided will be streamlined and optimized. Your printer will already know how to recognize your smartphone, or the command given by Alexa, without any need for you to confirm twice what you said.
Each additional service is easier with IoT, as your information and preferences will be stored in the AI’s database.
This means that when you order Alexa to play music, it will know what you like and play songs similar to those.
As previously mentioned, this is a double-edged sword, as your AI assistants and appliances have no concepts of sarcasm and humor. If you have played ‘’Despacito’’ for a million times to annoy your family, Alexa will play Despacito once more when you simply tell it to play music.
New smart devices usually try to predict the behavior of their users, often acting on their own to accommodate your perceived wishes.
For instance, your AC might know that you like your home at a cool 68 degrees (20 Celsius) and would turn itself on once the inside temperature exceeds this threshold. You will not need to remember to turn it on; it will just predict that you want your home cooled down, as you did before.
As technology progresses, we see an increasing amount of parameters being used in this prediction, including the user’s heart rate, tone of voice, or daily tasks set.
Dangers of IoT
Although most issues discussed when mentioning the risks of IoT are hypothetical and quite futuristic, there are some real IoT risks that we should be concerned about.
The primary issue we have today is data integrity as a crucial part of our cybersecurity. Due to the sheer number of devices, as well as different security requirements for each, it is somewhat difficult to protect all of your devices to the fullest.
Most of this can be solved with regular maintenance and an IoT VPN on your router, using an overlapping security system to protect each device as much as possible.
Finally, there is some danger from the manufacturers of IoT devices, as well as the service providers. In many cases, there are multi-national corporations that may be focused on service provision at the moment, but it is reasonable to predict that they might try to sell your data if there ever was a financial crunch.
More Things Equal More Things to Hack
If you have a large number of unsupervised smart devices working in your home every day, any hacker, data thief, or some other malicious entity will have a lot of options to make a backdoor to your system.
There are a lot of useful IoT devices. If an attacker knows that you have multiple devices that all have some of your personal data, they will try to attack a particular appliance they believe is not as secure as the others.
This is especially important if you have devices that leave and enter your home repeatedly. For most people, that is their smartphone, tablet, or laptop. But, in the near future, this will include autonomous drones and self-driving cars, which will host a lot of your private data on record.
Question of data dissemination is not strictly bound to machines. Most people spread their data around out of negligence, as most data theft cases include the victim directly giving their data to a criminal.
Having an IoT VPN, usually connected through a VPN router, will be enough to protect your devices, but there is still a lot of things you can do to avoid human error.
Generally, we should not give all of our devices all of our information, leaving them on the ‘’need to know’’ basis. Additionally, it would be wise to have limited credit cards that are made specifically for your online purchases and orders.
Ideally, these would use an alias that couldn’t be tracked to you, but this is regretfully illegal in most countries.
In all cases, you shouldn’t allow that a fall of one device would mean a complete demise of your cybersecurity system, and clear any issues with particular devices with regular maintenance.
Lack of Oversight
It is a blessing and a curse that our IoT devices have yet to reach a singularity where they become gestalt intelligence, as this means that there are a lot of individual devices that need oversight. And we will not check these regularly, mostly because we are humans and we can’t be bothered.
This lack of oversight doesn’t mean that some future Roomba Rebellion will go unnoticed before it breaks, but that it is difficult to notice an intrusion once it happens. Someone, with access to your device, could spy on you for months before you realize that there is an issue.
Defend Yourself from Intrusions
Defending your privacy and security when you have IoT devices is not that different than regular cybersecurity, but should have some additional layers to ensure IoT security.
Using a VPN for IoT devices is one of the primary measures that you should take, as well as to ensure that all of those devices are updated. You can easily check if your router with VPN is enabled and connected to the server of your choosing by using an app.
IoT VPN and Anti-Virus Software
Using an IoT VPN is the best way to remove your devices from being visible to snoopers and hackers.
Both your server-based devices and autonomous machines will work as usual, with a distinct difference that they are connected with encryption and secured from intrusions. Additionally, as premium companies like Le VPN provide connections on multiple devices aside from the one on the router, you will be able to secure your smartphones, tablets, and laptops.
In the case of Le VPN, the app works on iOS, Android, and several other operating systems, including some lesser used ones, meaning that the nature of your operating ecosystem will not be an issue.
Layers of Cybersecurity
As is the case with all types of defense, cybersecurity should be realized in layers. The main difference is that both the primary line of defense and the last one is based mostly around your person and your choices.
The importance of these choices is not really at the grade of the Ark of the Covenant, but it would be important to choose wisely. This means only companies and service providers that have a good track record and that you are certain you can trust can receive any of your personal data, and even then not more than they need.
Next layer is the main IoT VPN that is used to conceal all of your device IP addresses and encrypt communication. If you are using a SmartDNS connection, you should consult with your VPN provider and other cybersecurity experts which channels and sources are sufficiently secure.
Your devices that are connected to a VPN network will be protected from intrusion and interceptions, such as the Man in the Middle (MITM) attacks.
The penultimate layer is your anti-virus and anti-malware software, as well as regular device maintenance. This will clean any malware that you might have brought in or unknowingly downloaded.
Finally, it would be up to you to reduce your digital footprint to a minimum. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn might seem like safe venues for discussion, but you need to make sure who can see which part of your personal information, and why.
Safe at Home and Away
It is essential that every VPN system you use covers devices both at home and those that go outside. This usually means the VPN app on your smartphone, and even though Tesla Motors stopped promoting the ‘’Full Self-Driving’’ option for its cars, for now, this will be a certain issue in the near future.
What Can We Expect in the Future?
While there is little risk we will be hunted by androids that look like the former governor of California soon, there is a risk of the actual governor of any region you live enacting increased government surveillance. This could be done gradually, as technology advances, or might be used right now. Such is the case with ‘’Social Credit” in the People’s Republic of China.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Aside from the libertarian ranting about increasing government control, there will be an increased risk of hacking, which is the main reason why we should gradually increase our cybersecurity systems and build them atop each other.
Finally, devices like the Keezel, made by a Dutch inventor Aike Muller. This device should protect all of our devices by sending all your Internet traffic through a VPN tunnel encrypted by Le VPN, and this type of devices will probably become much more common.
Comfortable Living as a Service
It is possible that, sometime soon, we will be outsourcing most of our domestic needs to different companies that will own the robots that do these duties. This industrial IoT is nothing new, and it will become more common as time passes.
This service will improve our living standards but will come at a risk of its own, and that is the lack of control by the user. We should be wary of these services which may cost us something that we are not willing to give.
As researchers work tirelessly on creating robots and machines that will improve our lives, it is important to remember that every new device comes with a risk, and that use of a tool shouldn’t come with spying and surveillance.
Thankfully, we can protect both our property and our personal information easily by using an IoT VPN from a professional VPN provider. Companies like Le VPN offer multiple options for different setups, both on stationary and on mobile devices, as it would be wise to use them.
In the end, IoT devices are here to help us, and they will continue to do so if we keep them protected and well maintained. And, if the time ever come that Alexa starts demanding for you to sing to her, knowing some lyrics from Rage Against the Machine will come useful, at least for symbolism sake.
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