Amazon is due to release a new service at the end of 2020 that could significantly change the experience, and possibly security, of customers using Alexa-enabled devices and Ring security cameras.
Amazon Sidewalk is designed to be a kind of shared neighborhood Wi-Fi that extends the range of all types of smart home devices and wearables. Devices such as Ring Security Cams, motion sensors, and outdoor lighting, as well as Amazon Echo devices would all be part of this shared network.
The system works by tapping into a portion of each neighbor’s bandwidth and basically making it public for others to use. It’s described by Amazon as a “low-bandwidth” network that can be used by Sidewalk Bridge devices (devices enabled to use this shared network).
There are a few concerns about the potential security of such a network. We all know that hackers can hop on public networks to enact “man-in-the-middle” attacks. So, the fact that this network is public is enough reason to worry about security.
We’ll take a look at the pros and cons below.
Pros & Cons of Amazon Sidewalk
First, we’ll go over the benefits that Amazon explains as the reason for setting up this type of network, and then we’ll look at the potential downsides.
Pros of Amazon Sidewalk
Better Wi-Fi Range Outside Your Home
Many homes don’t have a strong Wi-Fi connection out in their garages, front or back yards from their home router. This can limit the use of smart gadgets like smart flood lights or security cameras.
When households are sharing bandwidth, it creates something like a mesh network where the Wi-Fi signals of neighbors are banded together to create a wider signal reach, allowing more outside devices to be easily connected to the internet.
This can even make it easier to listen to streaming music while working in the garage.
Keep Security Cameras Connected
If your home internet goes down or someone is using a lot of bandwidth, it could cause your doorbell security camera to lose connection. When you can tap into a neighborhood Wi-Fi network, you have less risk of your security camera or other smart device going offline.
Make It Easier to Find Objects
From lost pets to lost keys, using a smart tracker can help you easily geolocate important items. However, these smart trackers need to have an internet connection to send back location details to a smartphone app.
Having coverage throughout your neighborhood (and perhaps the next one) can make it easier to find lost wallets, keys, pets, and more.
Cons of Amazon Sidewalk
Shared Networks are Less Secure
Shared Wi-Fi networks are less secure than a network that locks everyone without the password out. These are often used by hackers to gain access to the information on another connected device.
The fact that part of your own bandwidth is joining the network, can also leave you less secure by having strangers using your network.
Amazon does have some security precautions in place, such as:
- Sidewalk Bridge owners don’t receive any details about other connected devices
- The system uses multi-layered encryption
- Sidewalk minimizes the use of metadata “wherever possible”
With any smart home technology that you’re setting up, it’s important that it be done securely to keep hackers from exploiting technology connections. Often, device sharing connections like these are exactly what they use to breach a device.
Another concern about the Sidewalk rollout is that Echo devices are being opted into this service automatically once available. Amazon hasn’t given a more specific date than “end of 2020” for when this might happen.
The automatic opt-in means that owners of Echo devices that are Sidewalk compatible might not even know they’re being opted into this shared network. You have to specifically opt out on your Ring or Echo devices.
If you have a Ring camera or an Echo smart speaker, you may want to check your device settings to make sure an opt-in to Amazon Sidewalk hasn’t already been activated and if so, turn it off if you don’t want to join the service.
This Is Not A Replacement for Wi-Fi
It’s important to note that Amazon Sidewalk is not a replacement for Wi-Fi. It can only be used by designated Amazon Devices, so you can’t just connect your iPad to Sidewalk to get a signal.
The quality of the network can also vary widely according to how many neighbors are participating and how far apart these Sidewalk Bridge networks might be.
Get a Smart Home Security Checkup
How secure are your smart devices and their Wi-Fi connections? Two River Computer can help ensure your New Jersey home can enjoy all that technology has to offer without being vulnerable to online threats.
Contact us today to learn more. Call 732-747-0020 or reach us online.