By Nicolas Lesconnec, IoT Expert @ Soracom
Remote IoT device access allows an organisation to connect and manage Internet of Things (IoT) devices from any remote location using a network connection. Developers have the ability to monitor and control their devices from anywhere, as long as they have an internet connection.
Remote IoT device access is important because it enables efficient and effective management of M2M devices and sensors, even when they are located in different geographical areas. This is particularly relevant for organisations with large-scale IoT deployments, as manually managing and maintaining these devices can be an enormous challenge at scale.
With remote access, it’s possible to troubleshoot and address issues without having to send an engineer to the device’s actual location. This can save significant time and money.
Remote IoT device access also enhances security by enabling users to monitor their devices and detect any unauthorised access or unusual activity in real time. This helps to prevent security breaches and protects sensitive data.
The benefits of being able to connect to an IoT device remotely are numerous. Developers get increased flexibility and convenience in managing and monitoring their IoT devices from anywhere, just as long as they have access to an internet connection.
Good to know: Remote access also enables faster response times to potentially costly issues and improved operational efficiency by allowing for more timely and accurate data collection and analysis.
IoT developers with remote access to their devices can enjoy benefits, such as:
In this article, we’ll go deeper into all of these benefits and explain some of the methods for rolling out remote access solutions for your fleet of M2M devices.
There are many different options available to developers hoping to connect to an IoT device remotely. We’ve highlighted the five most common ones below. Each has pros and cons, and the best choice for you will depend on your specific use case and setup.
To access a device remotely over Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), you first need to connect to the VPN using any appropriate client software or application. Once connected, users can access the device as if they were on the same network as the device, allowing them to manage it remotely from anywhere with an internet connection.
Remote Desktop Access (RDP) is only applicable when your IoT device is a remote computer deployed in the field with a desktop operating system. To access a device remotely over RDP, you would need to configure the appropriate firewall rules to allow remote access. Once configured, you should be able to connect to the device using an RDP client.
Secure Shell (SSH) is commonly used for accessing and managing Linux and Unix-based devices. This method provides a secure and encrypted connection between your computer and the IoT device, allowing you to remotely access and manage devices securely over an unsecured network.
With web-based access, you can access and manage IoT devices from anywhere with an internet connection without the need for additional software or tools.
This refers to custom software applications or tools allowing users to remotely access and manage IoT devices. These software tools may be built on top of existing VPN clients, RDP clients, SSH clients, or other proprietary remote access software, and are typically installed on the computer or device to facilitate remote access to the IoT device.
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It is important to note that security should be your top priority when accessing IoT devices remotely via any of the methods mentioned above. This includes ensuring the connection is encrypted, using strong passwords for authentication, and implementing access controls and permissions to restrict unauthorised access to the IoT device.
By their very nature, IoT devices that connect to the internet are vulnerable to cyber-attacks. These attacks can compromise sensitive data, disrupt operations, and even cause physical harm in some cases. Remote accessibility can add another layer of risk if proper security measures are not in place.
For instance, if a remote user accesses an IoT device with weak authentication credentials or through an unsecured connection, cyber attackers can easily intercept the connection and gain access to the device’s data or control its operations. This can have serious consequences, especially for critical infrastructure such as power grids or medical devices.
Implementing strong security measures when connecting to IoT devices remotely is essential to prevent these security risks. This includes using strong passwords, encrypting the connection, implementing access controls and permissions, and monitoring the device for unusual activity.
Here’s a Tip: It is also recommended that you use “allow lists” to limit network access to only known-good servers and also fully isolate your IoT devices’ connectivity by turning to virtual private network options.
By taking these precautions, you can help to ensure that remote access to your IoT devices is secure and that the hardware is always protected from cyber threats.
M2M devices are designed with specific protocols, standards, and communication interfaces that enable them to interact with other devices and systems. To access a device remotely, the remote access software or application must be compatible with the device’s protocols and interfaces.
If the remote access software or application is not compatible with the IoT device, you may encounter compatibility issues affecting the device’s performance, reliability, and security. For example, if the remote access software does not support the device’s encryption standards, the device’s data may be compromised during the remote access session. Moreover, if the remote access application does not support the device’s specific commands or features, you may not be able to perform certain tasks on the device.
Setting up remote access should be straightforward and user-friendly. The remote access software or application should be easy to configure, with clear instructions and minimal technical knowledge required.
If the remote access software or application is difficult to use or configure, you may encounter issues that can hinder your ability to remotely manage IoT devices. For instance, complex configurations may cause delays or errors during the connection process, impacting productivity or efficiency. Moreover, if you’re not familiar with the software or application, you may struggle to troubleshoot issues that arise during the remote access session.
IoT devices are designed to operate in real time, and delays in accessing or managing them remotely can have serious consequences. Remote access software or applications should be fast and reliable to ensure you can access and manage your IoT devices quickly and efficiently.
Remote access software that is slow or unreliable can impact your ability to manage a network of M2M devices and sensors efficiently, resulting in lost productivity and increased downtime.
Moreover, if the remote access session is interrupted or disconnected, you may need to start over, which can be both frustrating and time-consuming for the end user.
Remote access software or applications can vary in cost. Therefore, it’s important to consider your overall budget and the value you’ll receive from the software or application before deciding which path to go down.
While cost should not be the sole factor in choosing remote access software or applications, ensuring that the software or application provides sufficient value for the cost is important.
Moreover, you will also want to consider any additional costs that may be associated with the software or application, such as licensing or subscription fees. These costs can add up over time and should be factored into the total cost of using the remote access software or application.
Below is a list of the main considerations and best practices that IoT developers should consider when they are connecting to M2M hardware from a remote location.
Accessing a device remotely using strong authentication methods is crucial for preventing unauthorised access and protecting sensitive data. By requiring a strong verification method such as two-factor authentication, you can ensure that only authorised individuals can access your IoT devices remotely, reducing the risk of data breaches or other security incidents.
Keeping software and firmware up to date when accessing a device remotely is important for maintaining security and optimal performance. Outdated software and firmware can contain vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit, while updates can improve functionality and address any bugs or issues that may impact device performance.
Encryption ensures that data sent over the network is scrambled and unreadable to anyone who intercepts it, providing an additional layer of security and protecting against eavesdropping and other forms of network-based attacks.
By setting up access controls and permissions, you’ll be able to limit who can reach your IoT devices remotely and what actions they can perform, reducing the risk of unauthorised access and preventing accidental or intentional data breaches.
Monitoring access logs and audit trails when accessing a device remotely is important for detecting and preventing unauthorised access and identifying potential security incidents. Access logs and audit trails provide a record of who accessed the device remotely, what actions were taken and when, allowing users to investigate any suspicious activity and take appropriate action.
Any IoT device that connects to Soracom using our IoT SIM or eSIM can be accessed remotely – either via our web-based console or a command-line interface (CLI). Developers can enable a secure connection to their device, and from there, perform remote maintenance, troubleshooting, or other typical remote access tasks.
Each time secure remote access is enabled in Soracom, a random IP address and port are temporarily opened, preventing distributed attacks. You can then connect to Soracom using the assigned IP address and port, using any TCP protocol, such as SSH, RDP, VNC, and HTTP/HTTPS.
Once connected, you can access a device’s web-based interface, connect to a remote router, access a remotely deployed sensor or device to download its data, and view real-time imagery from a security monitoring device.
Best of all, this is achieved without setting up any relay servers or installing agent software on the device. All that’s required is a device connecting to our network with a Soracom IoT SIM or eSIM.
The best way of getting started with Soracom is to speak with our team of IoT experts. We’ll learn about your use case and help you get set up on the world’s most secure and reliable IoT connectivity platform.