How ‘Amazon Sidewalk’ works, and how you can opt out
FORT MYERS, Fla.– If you own certain home devices like Ring spotlight cameras or Amazon Echos, they’re automatically enrolled today in what’s called ‘Amazon Sidewalk.’
Alexa herself will explain it to you if you ask.
“Amazon Sidewalk is a shared network that helps devices like Amazon Echo devices, Ring security cams, outdoor lights and motion sensors work better at home beyond the front door,” Alexa will say, if prompted.
In short, it’s a way for neighbors to pool together part of their internet bandwidth through the devices, strengthening the reliability of each of those devices on the network.
“It’s a low frequency of communication that can extend really long ranges,” Cigent cybersecurity expert Evan Lutz explained. “The idea is, if you and your neighbors allow for Sidewalk to be used — (your devices) can then piggyback onto your neighbor’s network now. To be able to continue to get the connectivity.”
For example, if your WiFi goes out, Sidewalk can help keep your Ring spotlight camera rolling. It can also extend the working range of your devices.
But Lutz said there are some concerns with the new program.
“If you’re able to access a device on your neighbor’s network without putting in a password, it means that anybody can access that device without having a password,” Lutz explained. “In the event that there is a security issue with one of these devices or with the connection protocols, it’s possible that could be used as an entry point to compromise a network.”
NBC2 found people in downtown Fort Myers who own Amazon devices yet had no idea what Sidewalk is, or that their devices were being automatically enrolled in the program.
“I like the idea that my internet would be more reliable,” Emily Slobodzian said. “But I would have concerns about security. I have had problems with my card being compromised before, and I always wondered if that comes from using it on my WiFi.”
“My WiFi isn’t that good,” Emma Coleman said. “So I’m okay with (Sidewalk).”
Although certain devices are automatically enrolled, users can opt out — and doing so is easy.
In the Amazon Alexa app, tap ‘More’ in the bottom right corner. Then tap Settings > Account Settings > Amazon Sidewalk. From there, you can disable the feature for your devices.
If you do decide to keep the feature on, Lutz said the likelihood of a problem is pretty low. Amazon has created multiple layers of encryption to protect users’ privacy.
“If you would rather have the piece of mind that if my internet goes out, my Ring doorbell might still work, then you should probably keep it turned on,” Lutz explained “If you’d rather have the piece of mind of — ‘I want to give a threat actor as little opportunity as possible to compromise my network’ — you should turn it off.”
Amazon has created a FAQ page for Sidewalk, including a list of devices that are enrolled, which are called ‘Sidewalk Bridges.’
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