How to use VPNs to manage IoT security

online printingBusinesses have come to rely on firewalls and compliance engines to protect their proprietary data on their networks. But with the adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT), data is now routinely transferred across SIM-enabled devices, like smartphones.

Without the proper protocols in place, IoT data transfers take place on open public networks, which puts sensitive data at risk. To prevent data breaches, IoT networks must be protected.

A VPN, or virtual private network, is one effective way to do that. VPNs use encryption to create and secure a pathway between the company’s network and IoT devices. The secured pathway allows devices to send and receive data through a private link.

Taking a Centralized Approach

It’s important to take a centralized management approach and adopt a policy-based VPN management strategy. In doing so, you give IT administrators centralized control over VPN features instead of having to manage devices individually. For this to work, finding the right VPN provider is key (VPNOverview has a list).

A policy-based approach treats each location as an object within the system which can have rights and rules assigned automatically. Policy changes are checked automatically, and when policies are changed, those changes are distributed to all VPN gateways to ensure they’re updated.

IT admins can also keep track of all active VPNs on the network via a dashboard that displays their status in real-time.

Protecting Against Major IoT Cybersecurity Concerns

Between 2016 and 2017, there was a 600% increase in the number of IoT attacks, according to a 2018 Symantec study. Motives for attacks were wide-ranging and included showmanship, competition, retaliation, protest and even extortion.

VPNs can go a long way in protecting against these types of attacks, which may include:

Man-In-The-Middle (MITM) Attacks

With an MITM attack, the criminal essentially acts like a fisherman in a river, intercepting communication and gaining access to sensitive information. These types of attacks allow cybercriminals to view or even change personal information and hijack user accounts.

These attacks are especially effective against IoT devices that haven’t been properly secured. Unfortunately, many providers leave the manufacturer’s default password in place during the deployment process, which makes it easy for hackers to gain access.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks

IoT devices are targets for botnets, which are a series of connected devices that can perform large-scale attacks, like DDoS.

A DDoS attack essentially overflows a network by bombarding it with traffic. In one attack in 2016, a domain name service provider was the target and up to 100,000 IoT devices were infected with malware. The malware allowed the devices to create a botnet that crippled the company’s services.

Snooping

Without a VPN, a company’s business activities can easily be tracked through its IP address. Government agencies and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have access to this information and vast amounts of your other data.

Encrypting your internet traffic will protect your company from general snooping.

A VPN funnels traffic from the device to an intermediary server and then to its final destination, so IP addresses are replaced with one from the VPN’s server. All traffic flowing to and from the device is encrypted, adding further protection.

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