What Is Amazon Sidewalk? And Why You Might Want to Opt Out
If you have specific Amazon devices, you're now automatically sharing your home Internet connection with Amazon Sidewalk. Your personal privacy and security are at risk unless you opt-out. Here's how.
If you use an Amazon device, including Echo, Echo Dot, or Ring Floodlight Cam, you’re now sharing your Wi-Fi with your neighbors and any strangers nearby who also have Amazon devices. That’s because Amazon recently launched Amazon Sidewalk, a wireless network that takes advantage of personal Wi-Fi networks like yours. Cybersecurity professionals are always advising users to take precautions by protecting their online data to avoid online scams or phishing attacks. Given that, you’ll also want to learn more about Amazon Sidewalk
What is Amazon Sidewalk?
Amazon Sidewalk is a new program launched by Amazon that creates a new Internet network by using a part of your home Internet connection to create a shared one. The goal of this new program is for people to have access to Wi-Fi at all times, without any lulls or hiccups in connection. But that means Amazon keeps your devices connected to the Internet 24/7 for their new plan to function. Yes, some of your Internet bandwidth will be used for this home-to-home connection but Amazon states it’s a small amount and likely will go unnoticed. Amazon configured the devices to automatically opt in to share your Internet connection, which is convenient and beneficial for the tech giant but could cause security and privacy breaches for users.
Why is Amazon sharing people’s Internet connection?
Amazon Sidewalk is part of Amazon’s vision of “shared connected communities,” creating a new network with Amazon devices in an effort to offer more access to people. That may sound great on paper but the more important question is: who exactly benefits from this new network? Amazon customers are creating the network infrastructure, whether they are aware or not, by contributing some of their Internet bandwidth. “To create a network, Amazon does not need to lay down any cables, fiber, or put together any sort of infrastructure,” explains Kim Komando, host of the Kim Komando radio show and a tech and cybersecurity expert.
“Amazon’s customers are buying products from them to make the network…[which] will essentially create a smart neighborhood, which will lead to more user data being shared with Amazon.” Essentially, this tech behemoth is relying on its own customers to establish a network that will provide a wealth of data and more information so Amazon can better target consumers.
Are there security risks with Amazon Sidewalk?
Although Amazon states in its Device Makers Blog that it has implemented several security features including “three layers of encryption,” users could be opening themselves up to numerous potential security risks and privacy issues. Potential issues include that one user’s data can be seen by another user, there’s a loss of anonymity, and data could be breached by an insecure network in the chain, explains Dave Hatter, a cybersecurity consultant for inTrust IT in Cincinnati, Ohio.
But equally worrisome is how easy it can be for hackers to break into any gadgets that are connected to Wi-Fi. “A breached device in one network allows hackers to breach devices in another network,” says Hatter. “It only takes one device on the connected network to hack into the rest of those devices that are shared,” adds Komando. “And once that hacker has that access, your network and files are at risk, too.” Sharing your home Internet connection can become a huge risk. If you don’t opt-out, you’ll now need to follow all these rules about things you should never do using public Wi-Fi since your home Internet is no longer private. Make sure you regularly update your passwords, too, as there are easy passwords hackers often guess first.
rd.com, via Amazon Alexa App, Getty Images
How to opt-out of Amazon Sidewalk
Here’s what to do to opt-out of this Wi-Fi sharing for your Echo Amazon device(s):
- Open the Amazon Alexa app on your phone (iOS or Android)
- Select the “More” menu at the bottom right corner
- Click “Settings”—> “Account Settings” —> “Amazon Sidewalk”
- Set the blue toggle bar to “Disabled.”
After completing these steps, you will be opted out of Amazon Sidewalk. If you own Ring Amazon devices, the process is similar:
- Access Sidewalk via the Ring app on your phone
- Tap the three-lined icon in the top left corner
- Click “Control Center” —>”Amazon Sidewalk”
- Click on it for a list of all your Ring devices. If any are connected to Sidewalk, tap each gadget to disable the connection.
By the way, don’t miss these secrets to steal from people who never get hacked.
Why you should consider opting out of Amazon Sidewalk
Even if you think you have nothing to hide, you should strongly consider opting out of Amazon Sidewalk since a hacker can use personal information to steal your identity. In addition, you should also think about how much free information about your everyday and personal habits you’re handing over to Amazon. “It is known, e.g. from counter-terrorism investigations, that meta-data is more effective than data in determining behavior, recognizing trends, and detecting anomalies,” says Michael Huth, chief research officer at Xayn and Dean and Head of the Department of Computing at Imperial College London. “Amazon will know which devices spoke to each other, when, and in what contexts, for example, when using Amazon services,”
Amazon may say they are providing more access to the Internet but it appears it’s for their gain and financial benefit. “While data will be encrypted, Amazon will be able to expand its meta-data holdings considerably and merge them with the data that it already has about us. This will make us, as customers, even more transparent, predictable, and manipulable,” Huth says.
Beyond that, cybersecurity experts don’t recommend sharing your Internet connection. “I can see the potential benefits, and would not have such a dim view of this if it was an opt-in model vs opt-out model,” Hatter says. “That said, I would never personally use this.” Next, learn the cybersecurity secrets hackers don’t want you to know.
- Kim Komando, host of the Kim Komando Show and tech and cybersecurity expert
- Dave Hatter, a cybersecurity consultant for inTrust IT in Cincinnati, Ohio
- Michael Huth, chief research officer at Xayn, and Dean and Head of the Department of Computing at Imperial College London