Last Updated on June 1, 2021 by Calvin C.
In a development that is likely to spark divisions amongst tech users, Amazon devices are to start sharing internet with neighbors using Sidewalk.
According to Amazon, this gives IoT devices in the same area better connectivity as neighbors share bandwidth, hence ‘help’ those devices with a poor internet connection.
Are you ready to start donating part of your internet bandwidth to others?
If your answer is no, I will show later you how to opt out of the new Amazon Sidewalk easily.
The bandwidth that is used is limited to 80 kbps, capped at 500 MB per month and is equivalent to streaming an HD movie for 10 minutes.
Which Amazon devices are involved?
Amazon has several IoT hardware devices that can use Sidewalk and these include:
- Echo speaker
- Ring floodlight cam
- Spotlight cam
- Ring video doorbell
The feature enables these devices to share bandwidth (Sidewalk Bridges) when in the same neighborhood unless a user decides to opt out.
“Amazon Sidewalk helps your devices get connected and stay connected. For example, if your Echo device loses its wifi connection, Sidewalk can simplify reconnecting to your router.
For select Ring devices, you can continue to receive motion alerts from your Ring Security Cams and customer support can still troubleshoot problems even if your devices lose their wifi connection.
Sidewalk can also extend the working range for your Sidewalk-enabled devices, such as Ring smart lights, pet locators or smart locks, so they can stay connected and continue to work over longer distances. Amazon does not charge any fees to join Sidewalk.” said Amazon.
In other words, this is a shared network and benefits that have been outlined include:
- Devices that are outdoors where connection may be poor get better connectivity as they share bandwidth with nearby Sidewalk-enabled devices.
- Sidewalk can automatically reconnect a device that has a poor internet connection
- Has multiple layers of encryption to protect your connected devices from unauthorized access.
Amazon Sidewalk aims to extend the range of low-bandwidth devices by combining the internet bandwidth of other devices in the network.
This means even if a device is far from a home network, it remains connected as it id part of a shared network.
To achieve this connection, Sidewalk uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and also long range wireless technology (LoRa)
Once this system is active, all compatible Amazon devices are automatically activated to be part of the network.
Since these devices are connected over the internet, there are obvious security and privacy concerns that have been raised.
According to Amazon, the system has 3 layers of encryption to prevent unauthorized devices from joining the shared network.
In a final privacy whitepaper, Amazon said,
“Amazon has carefully designed privacy protections into how Sidewalk collects, stores, and uses
metadata. Sidewalk protects customer privacy by limiting the amount and type of metadata that
Amazon needs to receive from Sidewalk endpoints to manage the network.”
To further enhance security, each transmission between the endpoint and the respective server of the application has a unique transmission ID (TX-ID) that changes every 15 minutes.
This prevents tracking of the device and linking a device to a specific user, information that can easily be used by hackers to mount an attack.
There are also third-party Sidewalk-enabled devices and in that case, the system needs to identify the serial number of the individual device so that it routes data to its respective application server.
In addition, there are further security measures highlighted in the report:
“The routing information that Amazon does receive for operating the network components of Sidewalk is automatically cleared every 24 hours”
Although Amazon has gone to great lengths outlining how secure Sidewalk is, it is without doubt that Bluetooth and WiFi networks are prone to vulnerabilities.
If a cybercriminal gains access to the network, it becomes easy for the attacker to stalk or establish surveillance of a victim, amongst other malicious activities.
Can you opt out of Sidewalk?
The answer is a big yes!
It’s unfortunate that users are automatically included in the network by default and one has to actively opt-out.
Although Amazon Sidewalk has security features in place, it’s a new system and since personal privacy is at a risk, some may want to wait until issues that arise are fully addressed.
You can opt out via Alexa or Ring app as follows:
Alexa: Open more >>Settings>>Account Settings>>Amazon Sidewalk>>Turn Off
Ring: Menu>>Control Center>>Sidewalk>>Turn Off
Although Amazon indicates that turning off Sidewalk results in “missing out Sidewalk’s connectivity and location-related benefits”, the consumer has the final decision.
What are your thoughts bout Amazon Sidewalk? Leave your comments below and share the post with your friends on social media.
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