Amazon Shoots Own Foot Over Encryption

Amazon did an odd thing recently when they announced that encryption of their mobile devices had been removed since the last update. This was shocking for some since encryption can help protect us from crime, malware, viruses, etc. At least in theory.

This while Apple is fighting the FBI and law enforcement (and Donald Trump) over strong encryption-with the support of many tech firms including Amazon! Notably though, Amazon quickly stated its popular new Echo spyware speaker WAS still strongly encrypted.

Only by not updating the device, courting security vulnerabilities, is encryption still possible on the Kindle; if you had allowed Amazon to update your device the encryption was already stripped out and you didn’t know it.

This ignited a web shit-storm even though the Fire is too cheaply built to allow realistic use of strong encryption; and it really was probably seldom used-Amazon’s purported reason for cutting it.

Nevertheless, the outcry was large and Amazon quickly went into damage control mode saying encryption will return in the next update “in the Spring”.  Here is the Amazon PR flack responding before the track-back announcement:

The Amazon Fire is first and foremost a media consumption device, meant to interface with your Amazon media selections.
Any other features, like the ones described in this thread, were previously available only until Amazon decided what was best to develop for future versions. What you speak of as a “critical” feature may not have been intended to stay with the Fire forever.
The Amazon Fire was never meant to be used in a corporate or business environment. There are other devices that are made for that purpose, similar to a Samsung or Apple product.

This was not taken well on the Amazon chat line:

“Who cared what was “intended”? Scotch-guard was never intended as a stain-repellant. Silly pudding was originally intended to remove marks from wallpaper. People will use the products they’ve PAID for as they see fit.

and:

I will NOT be updating my current Kindle devices nor will I be purchasing any future Kindle product until full device encryption is supported. Very customer unfriendly.

Is Amazon telling us to drop their devices and buy Apple or Android? Some think so:

That One Guy says: Strange form of support? Ah, but don’t you see, clearly this is a move designed to help Apple in their fight by making it so that the security minded customers stop using Amazon tablets and move over to the ones that Apple is selling. By driving their customers into Apple’s waiting arms they’re making sure that Apple has the funding needed to continue to fight for encryption, it only seems like an incredibly stupid and contradictory move on their part.

Or is Bezos angling for a Clinton II cabinet post by preemptively rolling over for the government?

WingWong says: Huh… So… Amazon is telling us that they don’t want us to buy or use their devices? What? So… Amazon just removed a layer of protection on a device that has the ability to spend my real money? Seems like Amazon’s response to the Apple/FBI issue is to roll over, expose the belly of its customers, and call it a day. Good job, Amazon. Good job.

And:
“No more Amazon tablets for me. …
“My choice here is to “vote with my wallet
“WTF AMAZON are you kidding me ? screw you.
“I too am no longer choosing to support Amazon’s portable devices

Of course it remains to be seen if this will affect device sales. The Kindle line is largely a spyware front end for a media player which is sold at a loss despite the cheapness of the build and components. It could help Amazon’s bottom line to make fewer of them.

But Amazon wants to sell lots of Internet-of-Things gizmos like its always-on, always-listening spyware speaker the Echo. If people conclude Echo can’t be trusted it could affect sales.

But this is unlikely because most of us only pay lip service to security and almost nobody actually uses device encryption, especially on such a slow cheap tablet. But Amazon is taking no chances and, it says, is restoring encryption real soon now. If you actually use it then don’t update your device.

 

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