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. icon
    gilbert (profile), 27 Oct 2015 @ 6:20pm

    Re: Two sides of the coin

    This is a misconception that some people which have a basic and sometimes moderate understanding of the freedoms a rooted device gives.

    However, in the operating system world, there isn't a continuum, there isn't a spectrum, and it definitely isn't black & white.

    Why is this so?
    Premise: "If a device can be rooted through software"
    Inference/Conclusion: "1. Malware can take advantage of that"

    The Inference/Conclusion is false given the operating system in use.

    Without going into the details with every Linux distro ever created(hundreds, maybe thousands), Fire OS(Amazon's Android adopted OS) follows the same basic rules regarding root access. At least if security is a real concern of theirs.

    If there was a way for malware to take advantage of Fire OS, but not other Linux distros, especially its most closely related OS, Android, Malware would also be able to take advantage of all Linux OS's.

    But they cannot.

    The fact of the matter is, not a single piece of Malware has every been able to infect a Linux system in any "meaningful" way, "meaningful" being used in this case meaning harmful in such a way as being able to recover personal data such as identity or financial.

    Consider why someone would want to create malware for Linux systems in the first place. Distros of the Linux OS are used in more databases than any other OS. This includes databases which contain large amount of financial information like hundreds to thousands to millions of people's personal and credit card info.

    If Fire OS does have such a vulnerability, it is because they didn't follow the one rule which Linus Torvalds has repeated said is the one thing he would NEVER compromise in the Linux Kernal, which is "breaking the userspace." A quote directly from Linus Torvalds himself.

    If Fire OS has a vulnerability that allows malware to take advantage of the device, it is because Fire OS has deviated from the one single reason the Linux Kernal is "relatively" immune to malware that can cause "meaningful" harm.

    Consider that Fire OS while originally based off of Android, making it a Linux OS, isn't considered a Linux OS anymore, they have changed too much, yet there is only a few, probably 1 thing they really needed to keep which would protect against malware even after a person gains root access to their Fire OS device.

    In short, Amazon, having created a OS based on the Linux kernel, shouldn't punish their customers because Amazon may have created a vulnerability by breaking the userspace. A proper fix would be one that would correct the userspace issue and not one that "bricks" their own customers' devices.

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