Amazon Sidewalk: Why and how to disable it

Amazon Sidewalk: Why and how to disable it

As the development of connected devices accelerates, big tech is facing a small problem. What happens when these devices lose their Wi-Fi connection and stop working properly? Things like pet locators, Ring Doorbells, security cameras, floodlights, your Alexa/smart speaker, and more.

Their solution – Amazon Sidewalk. A new sort of mesh wireless that’s about to connect your home or office network with all your neighbor’s networks.

Oh, and it automatically activated June 1, on almost every Amazon smart device:

  • Echo Dot (3rd gen and newer)
  • Echo Dot for Kids (3rd gen and newer)
  • Echo Dot with Clock (3rd gen and newer)
  • Echo Plus (all generations)
  • Echo Show (all models and generations)
  • Echo Spot
  • Echo Studio
  • Echo Input
  • Echo Flex
  • Ring Floodlight Cam (2019)
  • Ring Spotlight Cam Wired (2019)
  • Ring Spotlight Cam Mount (2019),Echo (3rd gen and newer)

Concerned? We are! Here’s what you need to know:

1. What is Amazon Sidewalk

As PCMag puts it, “Sidewalk is simply...there.”

That’s because on Tuesday, June 8, the devices listed above automatically engage as “Sidewalk Bridges”, meant fill the gaps between your home network's internet connection and other devices using low-power wireless connections, like Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and sections of the 900MHz radio spectrum used for Long Range (LoRa). (It's similar to what you can get with some low-power smart home network protocols like Zigbee and Z-Wave, but those require you to buy a smart home hub. In fact, some Echo devices act as Z-Wavehubs).

2. Here’s Why you should turn it off

Unless you’re reading Amazon’s brochure, the consensus by technologists and security specialists across the internet is clear – disable it!

First, this is version 1.0, and given the track record of every single first-gen piece of technology, we want to see how the systems capabilities and security protocols expand overtime. Also, wireless networks, especially personal/home and small business networks, aren’t particularly known for high security. Amazondid publish a whitepaper on Sidewalk security, but PCMAG believes “next year's Black Hat conference could blow that tosmithereens.”

Sidewalk also opens your network to traffic you don'tnecessarily want. While there is a data cap of 500MB, if you’re on a meteredconnection that could be the half gig that kicks you over your monthly limit.  

And finally, there is this nagging issue of trust. WhileAmazon insists that Sidewalk is for delivery only and Sidewalk Gateways andservers never see the data involved (it only authenticates and sends, itdoesn't read it), off hand we really can’t think of an example where any of thebig-five (Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft) acted purely in the bestinterest of its users.

3.      Here’s how to turn it off

- Open your Alexa app (You may need to download the latest software updates)

- Tap More in the lower righthand corner of the app

- Tap Settings

- Tap Account Settings

- Tap Amazon Sidewalk

- Slide Sidewalk Switch to Off

At the end of the day, the concept is cool and as technologists consumed with client access, ease of use, connectivity and simplicity, it does check a few boxes. But there’s much to be worked out and considered before we pass our recommendation to our partners and clients.

Share your thoughts below and stay safe online!  

Articles referenced include: