Smart gadgets have been growing exponentially the last few years, and now 1 in 4 American homes has a smart speaker like Amazon’s Alexa-powered devices.
These devices help us save time, access information faster, improve a work-from-home experience, and can connect to other smart devices for an entirely automated home.
But they can also pose a security risk to home or business networks, including the other devices connected to them. If smart devices aren’t secured properly, they’re often used as an entry point to access data on computers and other devices.
Smart devices begin receiving attacks within 5 minutes of being connected to the internet.
Now, there is an entirely new factor to worry about with smart speakers and other smart gadgets: “Are they sharing my bandwidth with strangers?”
The reason for this concern is the brand new “neighborhood network” created by Amazon called Amazon Sidewalk.
We’ll go through some Q&A’s below to help you understand what this network is and whether it’s more harmful than helpful when it comes to your IT security.
What’s a Neighborhood Network?
Amazon Sidewalk is a low-bandwidth network designed to blanket an area, or neighborhood, with internet connectivity. This allows people to connect smart devices to the internet beyond where their own home or office Wi-Fi reaches.
For example, to connect a security camera at the perimeter of their property or to use a smart speaker while in a garage.
How Does Amazon Sidewalk Work?
Here’s the controversial part about Sidewalk. It works by using a small portion of bandwidth from each connected device’s main Wi-Fi connection. So, if you have an Echo Dot in your home office, if it’s enabled for Amazon Sidewalk, it’s transferring part of your bandwidth to Amazon.
Amazon then takes all this bandwidth and uses it to create the Amazon Sidewalk public network.
The more devices that are sharing bandwidth in an area, the stronger the network is.
How Much Bandwidth Does Sidewalk Take?
The maximum amount of bandwidth that Amazon’s network uses is 80 kilobytes per second (Kbps) per each connected Sidewalk Bridge. A Sidewalk Bridge is the name Amazon gives to the enabled devices that are connected to the network.
So, if your Echo Dot in your home office and your Ring Floodlight Cam were both connected, each would be sharing bandwidth.
Amazon caps data usage per month, per account at 500MB.
Does the Service Cost Anything?
No, it does not cost anything to use Amazon Sidewalk. You’re also not compensated for the use of any bandwidth or data from your network to power Sidewalk.
How does Amazon Secure the Sidewalk Network?
People using Sidewalk cannot see each other. This means if someone is connected to your Sidewalk Bridge, you won’t know who they are.
Users do have the ability to make the general vicinity of their Sidewalk Bridge visible so users will know where they can connect. This won’t give the exact address but can be a clue for hackers as to where networks are to try to breach.
Amazon also uses 3-layers of encryption in the network to protect data being shared. The layers of encryption include:
- Sidewalk Application Layer: This secures the communication between your device and Amazon’s application server.
- Sidewalk Network Layer: This layer protects the data packets being transmitted by a device through air.
- Flex Layer: This provides the Sidewalk Network Server with additional data packet confidentiality and a message-received time stamp.
What Security Concerns Are There With Sidewalk?
The biggest security concern is that public shared networks are easily hacked and often get breached. Hackers jump on the same public network and use software to conduct man-in-the-middle attacks on other network users.
The fact that your network is being connected to the Sidewalk network brings with it all types of security concerns. Because the technology is new, there is going to be a “wait and see” mode before vulnerabilities may be found.
Additionally, Amazon is inviting 3rd party developers to create compatible devices (currently only select Echo and Ring devices can use the network). This means more risk of security vulnerabilities as not all code developers are as security conscious as others.
How Do I Enable/Disable Amazon Sidewalk on My Device?
If you want to enable the Sidewalk connection on a compatible device… do nothing. Amazon wasn’t waiting for device owners to opt-in on their own. Compatible devices began being automatically opted in beginning December 2020.
This is concerning because you could be sharing your network and bandwidth without even realizing it.
To check whether your device has been opted in or to turn off the connection to Amazon Sidewalk, do the following:
- Go to your Alexa app
- Open the More option and select Settings
- Select Account Settings
- Select Amazon Sidewalk
- To disable, turn the feature to Off
Are Your Smart Home Devices Properly Secured?
Quantum PC Services helps business and residential clients in the Sturgeon Bay area make their technology more efficient and more secure.
Contact us today to learn more! Call 920-256-1214 or reach us online.