Amazon Quietly Bricked Jailbroken Kindle Devices Last Year

from the taking-money;-building-walls dept

It appears that Amazon is very serious about walling off its garden. Late last year, it pushed out a firmware update for its Amazon Fire TV devices that not only made rooted devices unusable, but prevented Fire TV owners from rolling back firmware to previous, more root-friendly versions. Apparently, Kindle users were also included in this lockdown.

A recent post at Good Reader notes that the latest firmware for Kindles is pretty much identical to its Fire TV firmware, right down to the destruction of functionality.
The new firmware was pushed out to all modern Kindle devices in late November of last year. Anything after version 5.60 will not allow you to hack the firmware and do interesting things like change the screensaver system or install custom apps.
And, like its firmware for the Fire TV, rollback to less hack-resistant firmware is nearly impossible. You can force it back, provided you have a soldering iron (and the willingness to apply it to your device) or you can follow a few not-so-simple steps to take your root access back from Amazon. But once again, it's the company removing functionality for the sole purpose of making devices perform the way Amazon wants them to, rather than leaving these sorts of decisions to those who have purchased the devices.

And it's not as though Kindle owners are receiving any heads up from Amazon about the firmware's plans for their jailbroken devices. No mention of it is made in the firmware's specifications, which only tells you about the (supposedly) good things the update will bring: vague "bug fixes and improvements." Softpedia's hosting page for the latest version (5.6.1) goes into a little more detail, but it only contains a list of slightly-upgraded Amazon features, rather than the limitations the firmware will impose on paying customers.

If you like Amazon's walled garden, the company is more than happy to ensure you never find the gate. If you don't, Amazon is more than happy to step in and brick over any openings. The latter does a huge disservice to paying customers who are looking to get the most out of something they purchased and own, but seems to still somehow "belong" to Amazon.

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  1. identicon
    KNC1, 24 Mar 2015 @ 5:08pm

    Re: Re: Two sides of the coin

    On the subject of actual facts, and both numbered items:

    For the grayscale Kindles...
    (and for the Kindle add-ins offered by the site I frequent, mobileread.com ...)

    The device system is **not** "rooted", we add another package certificate to the system's certificate store.

    That (as we distribute it) is only done from a file(s) placed on the user visible storage. The same place the user would place their own books.

    Even so, nothing is every done "automatically" - everything requires the user's interaction.

    A user is free to shoot themselves in the foot if they wish, but we aren't taking any shots at the users from OTA ambush.

    There are two (2) update package handlers provided by Amazon in the standard firmware.
    One of them handles OTA (Over The Air) updates.
    None of our packages have ever been packaged such that the OTA updater will recognize them. None, Ever.

    The certificate and packaging used by our add-ins **only** work with the **manual** package updater that Amazon provides.
    The (rather new) bulk package installer, released to install our existing packages on the 5.6.x series firmware, also uses **only** the **manual** package updater.

    So much for concerns about our "Jail breaking" (freeing the grayscale Kindles from being limited to Amazon packages) opening a door for OTA malware.

    - - - - -

    The real concern, as seen by myself, is the question if the owner of a device by purchase also owns the behavior of the device.
    **NOT** who owns the I.T. rights to the firmware that provides the behavior, but the ownership of the device's behavior.

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