Amazon’s new Sidewalk application is a low bandwidth, long-range communications protocol for sharing your internet connection with your neighbors. Amazon Sidewalk is embedded into several ECHO generations, ECHO Dot for kids, and Ring floodlight devices. The program is turned on by default.
Amazon describes these devices as a “bridge” to get other devices onto the Sidewalk network. Amazon operates Sidewalk. It is a simple procedure to disable Sidewalk from your device. However, how many non-computer people will think about or even know how to disable the service?
Sidewalk is an application that binds all the Amazon devices together, making life a lot easier for all of us. However, security is already a concern for a lot of people. With the constant barrage of hacking, has Amazon created a secure network or a nightmare?
- The Network
- Sinister Predictions
- Promising Technology
Amazon reiterates that privacy and security were the focus from the beginning of the project. Data must travel through multiple layers of encryption before hackers have any chance of doing harm. Another security procedure is rotating device IDs reducing info about specific users.
Sidewalk is described as the glue that holds the network together, making each device smarter and eliminating downtime. The company has issued a whitepaper explaining security procedures. Which seems a lot like; “concerns on security for Sidewalk are already out of the bag.”
The Amazon Sidewalk Network
Amazon describes the proprietary Sidewalk network as a mesh between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, both of which are not invincible to hackers.
Extending the range at which people can still use their devices outside the home network is a significant feature of Sidewalk.
Sidewalk uses the 900 Mhz band of the radio spectrum, and the band ranges from 902 to 928 Mhz and is used primarily for local communications. The wavelength is used primarily by amateur radio.
Amazon sees the application extending far beyond ECHO and Ring with Sidewalk enabled devices finding pets or valuables. Smart security, lighting control, and talking to smart appliances are all part of the plan.
Any connected device must communicate back to a management console or manufacture support services for direction. All this potential data could become readable by Amazon.
Devices such as home automation or IoT collect mounds of information on users’ behaviors and activities, called telemetry data. All this data could be transmitted back to Amazon or others connected to the network.
A sinister prediction comes from Engin Kirda, a professor of computer science at Northwestern. Who says, “It could also be possible for Amazon and others to use the network to identify individuals.”
Another sinister motive, special equipment could be brought in to identify a device from a specific signal. The movement of these signals could be tracked for geolocation and possibly advertisement targeting.
As an example of the dangers of using signals to pinpoint devices, Amazon has developed a smart tag for finding pets. If your dog runs away and there are enough Sidewalk users, your neighbor’s application picks up the signal, and your dog is found.
Locating a signal could also tell someone the frequency, duration, and destination of your dog walks. Tracking a signal seems harmless; however, combining that information with all the other data, problems could arise.
With all things digital in the modern era, it is essential you have not accidentally opted back into the network. Innocuous terms of service, hitting a checkbox on your shopping cart when checking out, or maybe missing one of those all-important memos from Amazon.
The theory behind Sidewalk looks promising to homeowners and businesses who get to sell more devices. However, users should remember that Amazon is not introducing Sidewalk to benefit users but to benefit Amazon.
Like all new technologies, Sidewalk is being promoted with a host of positive use cases, such as finding your pet. However, sharing networks and internet connections across a neighborhood has its detractors.
Mesh networks like Sidewalk only work well when sufficient user devices are trusting Amazon. This feature explains the default downloaded setting of Sidewalk as on, rather than opt-in. It also explains the phrase, privacy and security are foundational.
Users should be concerned Amazon feels privacy and security mean the same thing.
Assurances are being made by Amazon and third-party device sellers as to the overwhelming security of Sidewalk.
Experts are warning homeowners and organizations to opt out of any Sidewalk enabled devices until researchers and policymakers have a chance to evaluate the offering fully. Including liability questions in the case, someone can hack your Sidewalk network and gain access to your neighbor’s home.