Complete Guide to VPNs for IoT

Ralph Heredia
Apr 2, 2024 1:31:31 PM

Integrating IoT devices into the fabric of businesses and critical infrastructures comes with security vulnerabilities and risks that extend beyond securing individual devices to protecting a complex ecosystem. In an interconnected IoT or corporate environment, a single security breach can rapidly spread through systems with potentially devastating impacts.

IoT VPNs guard against security threats by offering privacy, robust protection, and scalable management of numerous devices. They protect devices from DDoS attacks, which cripple business infrastructure, and MITM attacks, which threaten data security. With an IoT VPN, your business can architect a scalable, private network that secures data across your organization. 

This guide provides actionable insights and strategies, enabling you to deploy a VPN solution, like Zipit’s Secure Internet, to protect your IoT devices and enhance the privacy and efficiency of your business network. 

What is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) establishes a secure conduit enabling devices to safely transmit data across the internet. Devices link to the VPN server through the Internet, establishing a private network over the existing public infrastructure. This process, known as “tunneling,” creates a direct, secure connection between devices and the VPN server. The tunnel encrypts data to safeguard it from unauthorized access and masks your IP address to protect your online identity and location. 

Encryption renders data indecipherable even if the connection is intercepted, so the confidentiality of the transmitted information remains intact. Routing an internet connection through a VPN server keeps a device’s IP address hidden, preventing tracking online activities back to the user. Instead, any surveillance or tracking attempts only lead back to the VPN server's IP address.

Integrating VPN technology into your business's digital strategy can significantly enhance data security and user privacy. By establishing a VPN, you secure company data in transit, defend infrastructure against cyber threats, and ensure that sensitive business operations can proceed without the risk of compromise. 

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VPNs in IoT

IoT VPNs manage the connections of a vast network of devices, which may include a range of low-power units critical to the IoT infrastructure. These devices often handle sensitive data, necessitating a robust security solution that accommodates the specific needs of IoT networks. 

Unlike consumer VPNs applied on an individual device basis, IoT VPNs extend across entire networks. This network-wide approach enhances security and ensures scalability, allowing the system to expand seamlessly as more devices join the network.

IoT VPNs also transmit sensitive information, including anything from personal health data to operational parameters in industrial settings. Given the potential consequences of breaches in these environments, ensuring the security of this data transmission is critical.

As IoT networks grow, so does the need to efficiently manage an increasing number of device connections without compromising security. This need positions VPNs as an essential component of the IoT or corporate ecosystem, ensuring that as the network evolves, its security framework can adapt and expand in tandem.

The integration of VPN technology into IoT networks is not just a measure of enhancing security; it's a foundational aspect of building a resilient, reliable, and scalable IoT ecosystem. 

Types of VPNs

Different types of VPNs cater to various needs—from individual privacy concerns to complex corporate network structures.

Personal VPN

Personal or consumer VPNs are designed for individual use. They provide a secure connection to a server when using public Wi-Fi networks. This type of VPN is ideal for individuals wanting to access the Internet via a private and secure connection or content from different geographical areas from personal devices. 

Consumers typically access their VPNs through an app with a simple setup process. However, personal VPNs offer less security than enterprise VPN solutions, making them more suitable for general use rather than handling highly sensitive information.

Site-to-site VPN (corporate)

Site-to-site VPNs are tailored for large organizations requiring a secure connection between multiple networks. This type of VPN involves on-site servers managed by the enterprise, allowing for meticulous traffic monitoring and control. Each business location is assigned a static IP address, with dedicated servers facilitating secure and reliable inter-site connections. This setup is particularly beneficial for organizations looking to share resources and data securely across different locations to enhance collaboration while maintaining stringent security standards.

Remote access VPN (client-to-site)

Remote access VPNs provide individual devices with secure access to a corporate network from remote locations. They can also be used by corporate teams for Network Management purposes to access, configure, and manage devices with private IP addresses. This type of VPN uses the business's IP address and servers so that remote connections are as secure as those within the corporate infrastructure. 

Access is typically granted through login credentials or apps installed on the remote device, allowing employees to access the network securely from anywhere. This flexibility makes remote access VPNs a cornerstone of modern remote work policies, ensuring employees can work efficiently and securely and facilitating network management of devices with private static IP addresses, regardless of their physical location.

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How a corporate VPN secures IoT devices

A corporate or site-to-site VPN employs Public Key Cryptography to ensure the integrity and confidentiality of the data transmitted across this network. This method involves two keys: a public key for encrypting data and a private key for decrypting it. This dual-key system scrambles data as it's sent from IoT devices, ensuring that even if the data were intercepted, it would remain indecipherable without the corresponding private key.

When an IoT device attempts to connect to the network, the process unfolds in several secure steps:

  1. Connection attempt: An IoT device initiates a connection to the network.
  2. Authentication: The server authenticates the user or device attempting to establish a connection, verifying its identity to prevent unauthorized access.
  3. Encryption: Once authenticated, data is encrypted and sent through the secure "tunnel," ensuring that the information remains private and secure over the public internet.
  4. Decryption and connection establishment: The server decrypts the received data using the private key and sends it back to the device, completing the secure connection process.

While VPNs provide a robust layer of security, they are not foolproof. The effectiveness of a VPN in securing IoT devices hinges on keeping the software up to date. Regular updates ensure that the VPN can protect against the latest threats and vulnerabilities, maintaining the integrity of the secure communication network.

A corporate VPN should offer your business the flexibility to tailor security and management settings according to its specific needs. This includes the ability to approve or deny IoT devices' access to specific websites, control and manage network routing and remotely manage devices through the network. Critically, these capabilities must extend across multiple carrier networks, reflecting the distributed nature of IoT devices and the need for seamless, secure connectivity regardless of the underlying network provider.

Zipit Secure Internet

At Zipit, we understand that device security and management are not just a necessity but a cornerstone of your enterprise's success. That's why we've partnered with Akamai to introduce Zipit Secure Internet, a solution designed to empower your business with robust security and flexible management capabilities.

Our solution, developed in collaboration with Akamai, brings a suite of capabilities designed to address the specific challenges faced by businesses leveraging IoT technology:

End-to-end encryption

Our solution protects your data from the moment it’s transmitted from an IoT device to the point it reaches its destination. This level of security ensures that sensitive information remains confidential and secure, safeguarding your business against data breaches and cyber threats.

DNS and IP access control list (ACL)

This powerful feature allows you to define and control which resources your client devices can access. With ACLs, you can restrict traffic beyond just websites by blocking specific IP addresses, protocols, or a combination of these, ensuring your devices only communicate with trusted sources.

Flexible network routing

Manage your devices' communication with cloud back-ends, such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services. This flexibility allows for optimized data flow and ensures your devices can efficiently transmit data to the required destinations.

Malware protection

In scenarios where IoT devices require some internet access for hybrid use cases (e.g., telemetry and browsing in transportation, logistics, and automotive), Zipit secures internet browsing with Akamai Threat Intelligence. This industry-leading solution offers best-in-class defense against malware, ransomware, and phishing attacks, safeguarding your devices and data.

Remote clientless VPN access

Remotely manage your devices without physically sending technicians to site locations. This capability is invaluable for businesses with devices distributed across wide geographical areas, significantly reducing operational costs and improving response times.

While offering remote access, traditional VPNs can be complex to manage and often require a client application that may not be compatible with resource-constrained IoT devices. Zipit's Secure Internet eliminates these complexities by providing end-to-end private connectivity directly from the IoT device without needing a client. This ensures compatibility with any type of IoT cellular device, making remote management truly effortless.

Network segmentation

This feature allows you to create separate private networks for your devices. You can isolate specific groups to contain potential attacks, enforce granular security policies tailored to each device type, and achieve greater operational flexibility by segmenting based on function or compliance needs. 

Multi-carrier support

Our multiple carrier relationships ensure that your devices stay connected, regardless of location. This redundancy is critical in maintaining operational continuity and ensuring your devices can communicate effectively, even in the most challenging environments.

Whether you need to ensure secure data transmission, manage device connectivity across various networks, or remotely oversee device operations, our solution gives your business the tools it needs to succeed. 

With Zipit Secure Internet, you're not just adopting a service but embracing a partnership dedicated to securing and optimizing your IoT ecosystem. Contact our team to learn more. 

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