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Amazon is trying out a brand-new concept which is to create a shared neighborhood network that extends Wi-Fi availability to certain devices in outdoor areas. 

This new network is called Amazon Sidewalk and it’s going to be powered by device owners sharing their bandwidth (either willingly or unwittingly).

IoT devices like doorbell cameras and voice speakers have exploded in use over the last several years. And they’re not only used in homes. Businesses are using many of these smart gadgets as well.

Between 2016 and 2021, the number of IoT devices is expected to triple. Currently, industrial and public services lead in device growth per year, over consumers.

Smart gadgets are becoming a significant portion of a company’s endpoint devices, meaning they impact network security.

Why does your company need to be aware of Amazon Sidewalk and take proper precautions? Because many companies and their remote employees are now using Echo devices, Ring security cameras, outdoor smart lighting, and other IoT devices that could be impacted by this shared network.

We’ll go through everything you need to know next.

What You Need to Know About Amazon Sidewalk

As of this writing, Amazon hasn’t announced the Sidewalk launch date, other than to say it’s expected to launch by the end of 2020. So, it’s likely to be impacting consumers and businesses as you read this. 

Here are the things to be aware of so it doesn’t negatively impact IT security for your office or staff that is working from home.

How Does Amazon Sidewalk Work?

Amazon Sidewalk is described as a “low-bandwidth” network and it’s powered by using a portion of the Wi-Fi of all participating devices. This means that if you have a Ring security camera or an Echo device, it could be sharing part of your network with strangers.

Devices that are enabled to connect to the network are called Sidewalk Bridge devices. A maximum of 80Kbps of bandwidth can be used from each Bridge device.

Amazon caps the total monthly data usage per account at 500MB per month.

This shared bandwidth is used to create an outdoor Wi-Fi that others can tap into with an approved device.

For example, this could allow you to set security cameras farther away from your building by allowing them to still retain an internet connection. 

Who Can Connect to Sidewalk?

It’s important to know that this isn’t just a typical Wi-Fi. Amazon is only allowing its approved Sidewalk Bridge devices to connect. This currently includes devices like Echo, Ring cams, Ring Spotlight Cam, Ring Floodlight, and similar devices.

However, Amazon is inviting developers to create Sidewalk-enabled devices and also mentions the potential for use of Sidewalk with Tile tracking devices in the future. 

What Security Features Are There?

If you have an enabled Sidewalk Bridge device, then a portion of your network can be joined by others and is exposed to potential hacking. Even if you have a password protected Wi-Fi, if you’re opted into Sidewalk, part of your internet bandwidth can be used by that network and joined by strangers.

Some of the security measures that Amazon uses include:

  • Three layers of encryption
  • Bridge owners can’t see who is connecting to their network
  • Those connecting to a Bridge can’t see an exact address but can see its general vicinity if the option is enabled. 

You Could Already Be Sharing Your Network

In a controversial move, Amazon is opting in all compatible devices to power Amazon Sidewalk without user permission first. Device owners have to specifically go into their settings and disable the connection to Amazon Sidewalk if they don’t want part of their network being used (and for no monetary compensation). 

This could mean that you have devices at your office, or your remote team has them at home, that are already sharing network resources with Sidewalk without it being realized. 

This not only makes your network more vulnerable to being hacked, it could also cause slowdowns on your network as a whole.

Third-Party Developers are Being Allowed to Make Sidewalk Bridge Devices

One other concerning security factor with Amazon Sidewalk is that Amazon is allowing third-party developers to create devices that can connect to the network. This opens the doors for both bad actors that could plant malware in devices or those developers who are just careless and leave security flaws.

Either way, while you may trust Amazon’s own devices, with a network that’s soon to be open to devices from multiple other companies, it leaves a big question mark as to how secure the network will really be.

Companies need to be aware and ensure any network sharing is done of their own accord and proper precautions are taken to ensure Amazon Sidewalk Bridge-enabled devices don’t pose a security risk.

Get Help with Extended Network Security from B-Comp Services 

Denver area companies no longer only have one office network to worry about. Network security now covers remote workers and mobile devices. We can help you ensure your extended network security is solid. 

Contact us today to get started. Call at 303-282-4934 or contact us online.

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