We love talking about home theaters, surround sound systems and cool smart home automation features, but home automation and entertainment is nothing without a secure network. Lately we feel that we need to share information around security and safety when it comes to your home network.
After all, think about ALL the things that are tied to your computers and devices. Passwords, bank accounts, medical information and other ultra-sensitive materials that you want to keep private. In an automated home, your entire home is tied to your network. This could mean your lights, door locks, sound system, entertainment and more.
VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, can provide more security or can open up your network to extreme vulnerabilities.
What is a VPN? A VPN is Virtual Private Network, a service that allows you to connect to the Internet via a server run by a VPN provider. Properly set up, VPNs can provide a secure network for a household or business and can help protect online users from hackers and scammers. Think of a VPN as a “tunnel” through the Internet, encrypting all traffic going through it. Only devices on either end of this tunnel can see the data.
Many Free VPNs however, are the opposite. Consider this scenario:
Schools (and even some businesses) will create a secure network that blocks students from accessing certain sites or apps (goodbye Facebook!) Yes, this is great for learning! However, what is happening is that kids—often being more tech-savvy than their parents—will download free VPN apps to their phones that allow access to websites and apps that aren’t allowed by the school.
Most of these Free VPN apps are from shady sources and scammers. They often harbor malware, which can hack into a system, steal data, or hit the user with spam. Free VPNs can also risk your identity and finances because they partner with third party apps and give them access to your data.
Okay, so why does this matter?
When the kids come home from school, that shady, free VPN app can still be running once they connect to your home network. This can be a huge cause for concern. The free VPN essentially opens up your home network to extreme vulnerabilities. A person or enterprise on the other end of that with the right knowledge can then get into your network and, through the network, can access all the machines in your home. Whoever is on the other side of the tunnel is essentially on your home network.
If they can access machines in your home, any sensitive data—passwords, bank accounts, online shopping accounts—is then left wide open to hackers. If your entire home—your lights, door locks, HVAC and entertainment—is tied to your network, you’ve got even bigger problems.
Now what? What can you do?
First, and this should be obvious by now, always have strong passwords in place on all your devices. Always change the credentials from the factory defaults, as these are published online and are the first thing hackers use to gain entry into your system.
Second, be very, very cautious when using any free VPN apps on your Android or Apple phones or tablets. Many of these VPN apps could be sabotaging your security and privacy. These apps are always making money in some way, usually through innocent advertisements, but sometimes by logging and selling your internet traffic. Always do extensive research, and try to know the origination or credibility of the VPN.
Third, consider hiring us to create a custom VPN that is tied to your home network. We can set up a legitimate, secure VPN that you can use when you are in public spaces. For instance, if you work remote or work at coffee shops and you want a secure Internet connection, a custom VPN can allow you to check your bank accounts from Starbucks without worrying about security. Your traffic is encrypted through the free wi-fi and is translated by the router in your home and then sent to the Internet.
Home networking is becoming so, so important. We now use so many devices in our homes for so many different reasons, and systems are put in increasing risk for security breaches. Upgrading your network can save you time, energy, and even money in the long run by providing an efficient secure system.
Home Systems Solutions takes pride in being Central Oregon’s leader in smart home automation, theater and entertainment. Contact us to visit our Bend showroom or get an initial consultation. Email us or call 541-610-7915 for more information.