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VERIFY: Yes, Amazon Sidewalk can make your Wi-Fi network more susceptible to a hack

KSDK-TV St. Louis logo KSDK-TV St. Louis 6/8/2021 Anne Allred, Erin Richey
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Amazon's new Sidewalk feature has raised concerns about privacy and security.

It also prompted a question to 5 On Your Side's VERIFY team. Viewer R. Kohlman wanted to know about the security of Sidewalk.

Question:

Is it true Amazon Sidewalk can make your Wi-Fi network more susceptible to a hack?

Sources: 

  • Dr. Abde Mtibaa, Professor and cybersecurity program director at UMSL
  • Charlie Goth, Results Technology, a company that provides cybersecurity for banks
  • Bryan Ferrario, CEO of Alliance Technology Partners which specializes in technology security

Answer:

True.

All three of our experts agree that participating in Amazon Sidewalk can make your Wi-Fi network more susceptible to a hack.

“They can put a virus, they can access the feed of my camera that is monitoring my baby and through them, or something like this, so this is actually scary as well,” said Mtibaa.


Video: VERIFY: Can Amazon Sidewalk make your WIFI more susceptible to a hack? (KSDK-TV St. Louis)

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“We’re really not going to know how secure it is for a while,” said Ferrario.

“You’re giving away a little bit of security for a little bit of comfort,” said Goth.

Of our three experts, Mtibaa and Ferrario already opted out. Goth did not opt out of the new feature because he thinks the convenience outweighs the risk.

Background:

Amazon Sidewalk is a way of connecting all the Amazon and Ring gadgets nearby by sharing a small fraction of your home's internet bandwidth.

Amazon says it will make your devices work better. For example, if your Wi-Fi goes out, your Ring camera's motion sensor will still work off your neighbor's Wi-Fi. It also extends the range of Tiles, Amazon's tracking devices.

“If I ever get a puppy and I put a tag on the collar, it would be helpful, nice to know where they're at, if he runs off,” said Goth when it comes to the advantages of Tiles and Amazon Sidewalk.

According to Amazon all devices are anonymous and sensitive data that's transmitted goes through multiple layers of encryption.

How to opt out:

If you choose to, you need to opt out on both Amazon and Ring devices.

  • Open the Amazon Alexa app.
  • Open "More."
  • Select "Settings."
  • Select "Account Settings."
  • Select "Amazon Sidewalk."
  • Disable "Amazon Sidewalk."

Amazon Sidewalk starts sharing your Wi-Fi on June 8, but you can opt out at any time.

If you do not have any Amazon or Ring devices in your home, this doesn't affect you.

What can the 5 On Your Side VERIFY team fact check for you? Let us know through Facebook, Twitter or email verify@ksdk.com.

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