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If you use Kodi for streaming content around your home, you should be using a VPN. The reasons are more complex than you might think.
Sure, VPNs let you access geo-blocked content, but failing to use a VPN with the software can also have grave security implications. As Kodi boxes continue to grow in popularity, they are becoming an increasingly attractive target for hackers and cybercriminals.
Deploying a VPN can shut down some of the software weak points before they can be exploited. But what exactly are the weaknesses? And how can a VPN help? Let’s take a closer look.
1. Avoid Trouble With Law Enforcement
Obviously, MakeUseOf does not condone using Kodi for accessing pirated content. However, the reality is that illegal add-ons, which provide access to everything from the latest Hollywood movies to live sports events, are one of the main reasons people start using the software.
If you use Kodi for watching such content, you could quickly find yourself in trouble with the law. One of the biggest myths surrounding Kodi is that end users are relatively safe from prosecution. It was arguably true in the past, but with the growth of “fully loaded” boxes, the copyright owners now have users in their sights.
Here’s what Kieron Sharp, FACT Chief Executive, said recently:
“While end users are not a target, they could get swept up in one of our operations and become part of the whole criminal investigation, which could lead to prosecution alongside the suppliers, retailers, and importers.”
And here’s what he said in a separate interview:
“We’ll also be looking at, at some point, the end user. The reason for end users to come into this is that they are committing criminal offenses.”
Indeed, in April 2017, the European Court of Justice ruled that the temporary reproduction of copyright-protected work would no longer be deemed as exempt from “right of reproduction.” Other countries, including the United States, are now considering similar legislation.
How Can a VPN Help?
Let’s take a quick refresher on how VPNs function, and more importantly, how they can help you avoid potential jail time.
The technology works by sending all your traffic through a “tunnel.” Everything is encrypted and inaccessible to everyone except the VPN provider.
As long as you choose a security-conscious provider who doesn’t log your activities, there is no way law enforcement agencies can trace the traffic back to you, even if they go knocking on your ISP’s or your VPN provider’s door.
2. Kodi Is Hackable
Kodi has 40 million monthly users and is open source. It’s a recipe for disaster, and it should come as no surprise to learn it’s riddled with security flaws.
Many of the flaws aren’t the direct fault of the Kodi developers. For the most part, the core application is secure. But as any seasoned Kodi user will know, there are thousands of add-ons, very few of which are vetted by Kodi to become part of the official repo.
The code for these add-ons is the most significant weak point.
Illegal add-ons, which often pull content from suspect third-party sites, are very much at risk. Man-in-the-middle and keylogger attacks are rampant. Remember, once a repo is installed, it has access to your whole system. If you’re running a standalone box, it might be less of an issue. But if you’re running Kodi on your laptop? It’s bad news.
However, add-ons that users might consider to be safe are also at risk. For example, subtitle files are susceptible. They contain HTML or Java code which tells Kodi how to display the subtitles on your screen.
Sadly, it’s worryingly easy for a hacker to manipulate the code, create malicious files, and upload them to the various free repos. When you inadvertently download the subtitles into your Kodi app, the malicious content can easily bypass your security systems, potentially giving hackers complete control of your device.
How Can a VPN Help?
If you use a standalone Kodi box, a VPN can prevent any malware propagating off your device and onto the rest of your home network.
You can turn it into a sandboxed container. If anything goes wrong, the attack still can’t get beyond the confines of your device. The encryption tunnel protects the rest of your network.
If you run Kodi on your PC, it’s a bigger concern. However, a VPN can still stand as a barrier by securing your actual connection. It vastly reduces the risk of invasion, rather than only blocking malware as it attempts to enter your hardware.
Think of it like a medieval city. Rather than just building a wall on your city’s perimeter, you’re building one several miles outside it instead.
3. Kodi Isn’t Anonymous
Kodi is not anonymous, and the lack of anonymity is a security flaw.
Think about it. Have you ever put a password for a streaming service into Kodi to enable an add-on? Have you ever entered your username or real name for a particular service? For the majority of users, the answer will be affirmative. Hackers can grab all that information with ease.
And what about your IP address? It’s like your virtual phone number. It can reveal an enormous amount of information to prying eyes, including your location, your ISP, and some personal details. A skilled cybercriminal (or even a government) can use it to quickly ascertain your identity and your online activities.
How Can a VPN Help?
Using a VPN nixes the problem in the bud. The VPN issues a different IP address that’s untraceable back to you, your computer, or your online activities. Often, your new IP address isn’t even based in the same country as your physical location.
If you use a VPN, the aforementioned privacy concerns that Kodi raises instantly vanish. There’s no better way to anonymize your habits as a Kodi user.
Do You Use a VPN With Kodi?
The results are conclusive: you need to use a VPN with Kodi, even if you’re only watching legal content. There are too many flaws and loopholes for hackers to exploit if you don’t.
Do you use a VPN with Kodi? What made you start? Were you the victim of a Kodi hack? If not use one, why not? There are lots of great options out there. Given their relatively low price, it’s a no-brainer.
As always, you can leave all your stories and opinions in the comments below. And don’t forget to share the article with your friends to see what they think.
Image Credit: Srdjan Randjelovic via Shutterstock