HOUSTON - If you have Amazon Alexa, Echo, or a Ring Doorbell, the company is launching Amazon Sidewalk to help you keep those devices connected even if your wifi goes out. However, cyber experts say it could also leave you open to hackers.
Amazon Sidewalk is automatically being turned on June 8th. If you don't want it, you have to opt-out.
Amazon Sidewalk is a free, shared network to help customers with Amazon devices, Alexa, Echo, Ring doorbell, and security cameras, stay connected even if your wifi is weak or fails. Sidewalk automatically connects customers to the wifi of neighbors who also have Amazon devices.
"Could allow, for instance, if the dog jumps the fence with an Amazon enabled device around the dog's neck, maybe it's a bit easier with this Sidewalk service to locate that dog," explained cybersecurity expert Brian Linder with Check Point Software Technologies.
But Linder says Sidewalk could leave customers vulnerable to cyber attacks.
"It's not a matter of, Hey, I don't want my bad neighbor seeing my video doorbell. That's not going to happen. But we're concerned an attacker could attack your neighbor's network, then get onto your network as well through this Sidewalk service somehow," said Linder.
To opt out of Amazon Sidewalk, open the Alexa app on your phone. Then click More, Settings, Account Settings, and Amazon Sidewalk, where you can turn it off.
But whether you opt out or not, Linder says everyone should install software to protect their computers, laptops, and mobile devices from malware and ransomware.
"That could protect, for example, from someone going from your neighbor's wifi to your wifi, combining techniques, attacking your machine, and ultimately stealing your identity," said Linder.
And he says never click on a link in an email asking you to verify the information.
"This is the way a ransomware attack can start encrypting your machine and stealing your identity. Not too dissimilar to what you've seen on the meatpacking plant or on the pipeline," said Linder.
If your Alexa app doesn't have a Sidewalk setting for you to turn on or off, experts say it means your device isn't new enough to have the Sidewalk feature.