Smart devices have come a long way in the last decade. In 2020, approximately 40% of U.S. households owned a smart speaker, like Amazon’s Echo. And by 2022, that number is expected to grow to 60%.
And homes aren’t the only thing being impacted by this new IoT technology. Increasingly offices are also using smart assistants like Alexa to enable hands-free calendaring, file searches, and more. In fact, Amazon has an entire Alex for Business program.
It’s estimated that 25% of businesses use IoT technologies.
These devices and the cloud services that support them can shave minutes off tasks and create a more automated home and work environment. However, they also open up a new area of IT security risk.
Smart devices are often targeted by hackers because they tend to have less security than computers and servers, and they can be used as conduits into a network to attack other devices.
One big change in IoT connectivity that is going to make the security aspect of IoT devices even more complex is Amazon Sidewalk.
What’s Amazon Sidewalk?
In an effort to push the boundaries of IoT devices, which is basically their available internet connection, Amazon created a shared neighborhood network. Amazon Sidewalk blankets an area between homes and buildings with a low-bandwidth Wi-Fi that certain smart gadgets can connect to.
For example: Say you have a Ring floodlight security camera for your building, but you can only put it near the front door and no farther because your Wi-Fi doesn’t reach beyond that point. Sidewalk allows you to move that security cam all the way to the edge of your property to the entry gate by giving you an available outdoor network.
How Does Amazon Sidewalk Work?
That sounds great at first. You get more connectivity for certain devices, and by the way, Amazon doesn’t charge you for the service. Well, they don’t charge you directly, that is. You pay in another way.
The Sidewalk network is created from bandwidth taken from the networks of participating devices, which are called Sidewalk Bridges. For each Bridge device you have, Amazon uses up to 80kbps of your bandwidth. For each account, up to 500MB of data is used per month.
This means that if you have two Ring security cameras connected to Amazon Sidewalk, you’re contributing up to 160kpbs of your own network bandwidth to power the network.
Anyone with a compatible device can connect to Sidewalk. Currently those devices include multiple Echo voice speakers and select Ring security cameras.
Why You Should Be Worried About Amazon Sidewalk
How does Amazon Sidewalk impact your IT security?
This can happen in a couple of ways:
- If you use any Sidewalk enabled devices at your office
- If you have employees working from home that have a Sidewalk enabled device
Amazon does have 3-layer encryption in place on the network to help secure all data traveling through Sidewalk. But there are still several reasons to be concerned about this new type of shared network.
Devices Were Opted in Without User Action
One big issue that many in the cybersecurity field were surprised about was that Amazon opted compatible Echo and Ring devices into the network automatically, without user’s taking any action.
This means that many people could already be sharing part of their network with Sidewalk without even realizing it.
Users can turn off participation in Sidewalk by going into their device settings.
Hackers Always Find A Way
76% of security risk professionals think that IoT increases the risk of a cyberattack. Statistics show that IoT devices are typically attacked within 5 minutes of being set up.
Despite the precautions Amazon is taking with encryption, this type of shared network is new and there is no doubt that hackers will be trying to find vulnerabilities that allow them to exploit it.
This could potentially mean data stolen from connected devices, or hackers using connected devices to get into a user’s network that is sharing bandwidth through the device.
Other Developers Are Coming Onboard
One of the reasons that when websites moved largely to WordPress type platforms they became much more vulnerable to attack, is that the platform uses multiple plugins that can be made by multiple different developers.
Amazon is openly inviting developers to create devices that will work with Amazon Sidewalk. The more “cooks in the kitchen” as far as this type of network technology, the more risk you have that one of those developers will write code with severe vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit, leaving your device, company data, and/or network at risk.
Do You Have a Strong IoT Cybersecurity Strategy?
Rocky Knoll Technologies can help your Charlotte area business put a cybersecurity strategy in place that includes safeguards for those risky IoT devices.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. Call 704.594.7292 or reach us online.