Amazon Removes Encryption Support, Just As Its CTO Says 'Encryption Is Mandatory'

from the uh,-what? dept

So this is disappointing. While Amazon has come out in support of Apple's fight against the DOJ on backdoors, and its CTO, Werner Vogels just gave an impassioned speech in favor of encryption, the company itself... has removed encryption from its Fire OS 5. This is getting a lot of attention today in response to this tweet from cybersecurity guy David Scovetta:
If you can't see that, it is a screenshot noting that Amazon has ended encryption support for the Fire tablet:
Encryption Support on Fire Tablet

Encryption support will soon be deprecated on Fire HD (4th Generation) and Fire HDX 8.9 (4th Generation). Here's what to do to ensure your data and other information are saved.

Your device has encrypted data. However, device encryption is no longer supported in Fire OS 5. Follow the steps outlined below to save your data.
It turns out this information actually started leaking out last week, with complaints popping up on Reddit and Hacker News and various Amazon forums.

This is ridiculous. So far, Amazon has not been willing to comment, but it's hard to square this decision with what its CTO Vogels was saying just as Amazon made this move:
We have a very strong opinion on this. We believe that you cannot have a connected business, or an Internet-connected business and not make security and protection of your customers your number one priority.

Encryption plays a very, very important role in that. To be honest, it is one of the few really strong tools we have so customers know that only they have access to their data and nobody else.

In our cloud division we put encryption into all of our services where customers can manage their own keys. I think that encrypting your data … of your customers is mandatory. It is not only mandatory from a business point or in the cloud, but also on premise. You should be encrypting your data. Without backdoors you can be sure that you are the only one who has access to your data.
I and many others agree. Which raises serious questions why the company where Vogels is CTO seems to now be doing the exact opposite.

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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 3 Mar 2016 @ 11:49am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2016 @ 12:06pm

    All Amazon media consumption devices: LOL

    So my wife is a deal finding huntress and she found some Amazon devices super cheap. Since we have never owned a tablet et al, she asked about getting something from Amazon.

    I was like .. nope.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2016 @ 12:07pm

    It will fun to see what some clickbaity outlets come up with in terms of headlines. "Amazon surrenders to FBI and creates backdoor voluntarily"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    NeghVar (profile), 3 Mar 2016 @ 12:07pm

    Time to root the Amazon devices

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2016 @ 12:22pm

    VPN gone as well as encryption

    "why the company where Vogels is CTO seems to now be doing the exact opposite"

    Selling the data. Enforcing location restrictions on content (*). And allowing DPI and selling the data that way too.

    * It's not just encryption, it's VPN support too. I have an older Fire 7" and did the upgrade - now no VPN support and no encryption.

    By the way, NOWHERE ON THE DEVICE when you are offered the upgrade does it mention these features are being removed. NOWHERE.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anon, 3 Mar 2016 @ 12:22pm

    So.. All Encryption?

    Does this mean DRM restriction on purchased books will also disappear and I can read my books outside of Kindle?

    (Duh. Of course not. Encryption is important... if it helps Amazon.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2016 @ 12:40pm

      Re: So.. All Encryption?

      DRM is set by the book publishers.. Amazon allows books without DRM...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Mar 2016 @ 4:54am

        Re: Re: So.. All Encryption?

        DRM is set by the book publishers.. Amazon allows books without DRM...

        The question, my little apologist friend, is does it still allow books *with* DRM?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2016 @ 2:05pm

      Re: So.. All Encryption?

      This removes device level encryption, meaning you can now easily grab the decryption key for your DRM'd books and mass-decrypt them for use in other places.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    drummer315 (profile), 3 Mar 2016 @ 12:23pm

    Removing encryption from Fire OS

    Thanks for the assist, Amazon. You helped me decide to not purchase/own one of your devices running Fire O/S.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2016 @ 12:56pm

    Auto update

    Updates adding malicious features? Stallman is spinning!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2016 @ 2:05pm

    Ars Technica has a little more on this story. According to a quote they got from Amazon:
    "In the fall when we released Fire OS 5, we removed some enterprise features that we found customers weren’t using," Amazon told Ars. "All Fire tablets’ communication with Amazon’s cloud meet our high standards for privacy and security including appropriate use of encryption."
    So if I'm reading this right, Amazon devices are going to be just dumb clients; i.e., a cloud screen. Let's hope this doesn't become a trend.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2016 @ 3:15pm

      Re:

      More from the Ars Technica story:

      Essentially, encryption significantly slowed the tablet down, and very few people were turning the feature on (or, perhaps, leaving it on).

      That begs the question, though: what harm leaving it in the OS until the hardware came up to speed?

      Surely the encryption library wouldn't eat much memory. And taking it out means that much more work to bring it back up-to-date when the hardware catches up with the requirements of the encryption, should they put it back in again.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        orbitalinsertion (profile), 3 Mar 2016 @ 4:24pm

        Re: Re:

        And if it isn't turned on, how is it significantly slowing the tablet? And why wasn't it designed to run it's own OS well in the first place? (Oh, wait. Never mind.)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        rikuo, 4 Mar 2016 @ 12:29am

        Re: Re:

        I have a Kindle Fire HDX 7". The only time encryption slowed down the machine was on boot, when I had to type in my password and it decrypted the OS.
        Other than that, I never noticed any slowdown on my machine.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    The Bear In Boulder (profile), 3 Mar 2016 @ 2:31pm

    Refunds then>

    I've asked them to verify this and then I'll ask how to get a full refund for the cost of my kindle. I bought it specifically because it can hold my extensive technical library and I'm much more willing to lose it than my ipad - and the places where I'll need said technical library are often places where I'll need to use a VPN to talk to the mothership.

    The fact that "few" people use the enterprise features doesn't mean that "no" people do - and the people who are using them probably made an informed choice based on things like cost. If they change something fundamental like this it completely changes the calculus of whether the device is worth buying. The fact that I can use it as a third? TV screen at home is irrelevant since I already had a way of doing that and wouldn't have spent a premium on a high resolution, high memory kindle just for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2016 @ 5:09pm

    Amicus brief

    The Tech News Today story linked in the article above mentions Amazon's amicus brief in supporting Apple in the Central District of California case, however I'm not seeing a link to the actual brief.

    Thus, relevant to this story, and courtesy Microsoft, here's the “Brief of Amici Curiae Amazon.com, Box, Cisco Systems, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, Nest, Pinterest, Slack, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Yahoo In Support of Apple, Inc.”

    Note that copies of more Amicus Briefs in Support of Apple are available courtesy of Apple Press Info.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Martin Kristiansson, 4 Mar 2016 @ 1:35am

    Digging their own grave

    What serious company would want to buy their services after this? A company with this policy wont ever be trusted.

    I think they just started digging their own grave, or atleast putting the showel down.

    This will change ALOT i think, most likely gain all other cloud service providers a bigger market share.

    Worst possible business strategy they could have chosen, the whole world is talking privacy/security, so they remove it. HAHA :) Plain stupid

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    leehb9 (profile), 4 Mar 2016 @ 3:43am

    Sigh...another one bites the dust...

    It looks like I've bought my last Amazon device; somebody there obviously has his head up his a$$! Sorry, Amazon! It was a good run!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Wyrm (profile), 4 Mar 2016 @ 8:57am

    Follow the path of Sony

    That reminds me of the PS3, the console that lost features on each "upgrade".
    Starting down this path is a bad message to send to your customers..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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