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How to Secure Your Smart Home and IoT?

What is a Smart Home

A smart home is very similar to an everyday ordinary house. The main distinction between a smart home and a normal home is that ordinary mundane appliances, gadgets, and devices within the house (such as refrigerators, stoves, washing machines, etc) are replaced with a smart device version of it. These smart devices are capable of connecting to the internet and are used to help with everyday tasks. For example, a refrigerator which monitors if the food within it has reached its expiration date or a washing machine that remembers your washing settings and cycle. This grouping of smart items is commonly referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT).

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a grouping term used to describe smart devices which are typically not able to connect to the internet. This includes typical household items such as lamps, coffee makers, stoves, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and more. The reason this group of items exists is to make our lives more streamline in small, trivial, day-to-day tasks we do routinely at home. This can include making the coffee you like just the way you want or setting a load of clothes to wash with cold water and then rinse with warm water. These devices make this easier by allowing us to streamline these processes through the use of some application, usually on a smartphone. For example, the coffee maker would be know how you like your coffee while the washing machine can remember exactly how you want your clothes washed without you having to tell it every time. Basically, these items are a step towards a more autonomous future within the household of everyone.

The Problem with IoT Devices

Despite IoT devices makes our lives easier, they definitely have a huge glaring flaw with them: security. These devices' lack a great deal of security in comparison to what is commonplace today; that is, they do not have built-in security protocols which are standard for all of the internet. While it might seem strange that one might be interested in the data sent and received from your washing machine, there is a value when you consider that everything within your house shares the same network as that washing machine. There is also the issue of putting trust in the manufacturers of these devices to not monitor this data themselves for their own gain. Lead generation is a common use of internet data collected by many companies with an online presence and they use it as leverage to sell to other companies who want potential customers to send advertisements to. There is also the matter of one's privacy being at risk to entities who simply wish to use their data for one nefarious reasons.

Because of these issues, IoT devices are still considered risky items and more so of luxury goods than a necessity. There are however some measures one can take advantage of to lower the risks involved with these devices.

The Beauty of a VPN

Enter VPN technology, or rather, a virtual private network. This piece of technology allows a user to create a tunnel between two devices that is secure as all of the data sent between those two devices in that tunnel are encrypted. Only the two devices involved in this transfer is capable of decrypting the data as a result and because of this one nifty piece of technology; we can immediately solve the issue of privacy, security, and annoying advertisements all at once.

The ideal way in which one is to do this isn't to set up the VPN on each individual device (if they're even capable of this), their computer, or their smartphone; but their router. The router within the home is what will function as the interface for all of your IoT devices and as such, all of them will communicate with each other and the internet through it. If one sets up the VPN on the router these devices are all connected to, all of the data they send and receive will be guaranteed to be encrypted and secured.

Things to Consider

Despite the usefulness and peace of mind a VPN may give us, however, it is not a perfect solution. There are some things to consider when using a VPN after all. For starters, the constant encryption and decryption of data across the tunnel mean that there is now some additional overhead that must be done along with everything else that occurs in the process of sending data over the internet. What this means is that you should expect slower responses and performance with these devices and communicate through the router over the internet.

Free VPNs are also not ideal in these scenarios as they often have data caps on them. This means that the amount of data you can actually safely transfer is limited and you once it is used, your service ends. In some cases, free VPNs do this as a trial and do not offer reset your cap after some time has passed, leaving you with the hassle of trying to find a new VPN solution at a moment's notice.

You also need to find a reputable and reliable VPN to use. Some VPN providers do so with the intention of still taking advantage of all of your information for themselves anyway. What this means is that you are not at all secure and worse yet; all of your information is now in the hands of one company who can monopolize it for their goals. As such, be sure to do your due diligence before settling on a VPN to use on your router.

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