Amazon Quietly Removed Disk Encryption on Amazon Fire Tablet Last Fall

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Amazon Fire Tablet with an Open DoorAmazon removed disk encryption from its Fire Tablet product line last fall, an issue Reuters brought to light on Thursday. Amazon said it removed the feature because "It was a feature few customers were actually using," but privacy experts aren't pleased with the move.

"Removing device encryption due to lack of customer use is an incredibly poor excuse for weakening the security of those customers that did use the feature," Jeremy Gillula, staff technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Reuters.

He added, "Given that the information stored on a tablet can be just as sensitive as that stored on a phone or on a computer, Amazon should instead be pushing to make device encryption the default—not removing it."

Disk encryption is a bit of a misnomer in this instance because tablets—including Amazon's Fire Tablet—don't have disks, they have SSDs. That said, it still means that data stored on the SSD is encrypted and requires a password to access. It's one step short of whole device, end-user encryption, but does keep data safer than it is without it.

It's possible no one would have noticed this decision were it not for Apple's fight over a government order to create tools that bypass the security of iOS for the sake of unlocking a terrorist's work iPhone. As it is, the move was made in the fall and is just being reported in March.

Amazon is one of several companies supporting Apple in its fight with the FBI, with the company signing on to an Amicus brief filed on Apple's behalf. That brief argued that the FBI overstepped its authority under the All Writs Act, and it was cosigned by Cisco, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, Nest (owned by Google), Pinterest (owned by Yahoo), Slack, Snapchat, Whatsapp (owned by Facebook), and Yahoo.

It will be interesting to see if Amazon feels pressured to re-add support for disk encryption in light of these developments, or if the company's customers continue to not want it.

Image made with help and help from Shutterstock.

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Here’s an update from Amazon, on ZDNet’s story on this:
Amazon quietly drops encryption support from Fire devices
While Apple is neck deep in the courts fighting an FBI court order to unlock the iPhone, Amazon quietly drops support for device encryption from its Fire OS operating system.

By Adrian Kingsley-Hughes - ZDNet | Hardware | March 3, 2016):

“Update: Amazon has responded to comment with the following:

In the fall when we released Fire OS 5, we removed some enterprise features that we found customers weren’t using. All Fire tablets’ communication with Amazon’s cloud meet our high standards for privacy and security including appropriate use of encryption.

Amazon is among a group of tech companies filing or joining amicus briefs in the Apple case.”


I always wondered why Amazon named it the “Fire” tablet, but now I understand they are probably referring to Farhenheit 451.  With disk encryption gone, I imagine it is only a matter of time until we see a new feature that will automatically set the tablet on fire when someone downloads a book deemed unacceptable.  This whole situation also makes me question the Kindle’s name.  Is that another book burning reference, as in “kindling”.  At some point they might as well call it the Amzaon Immolate.

Scott B in DC

Gee… Apple has figured out how to add all sorts security features including encryption without creating performance issues on the iPhone. Is it that Apple is smarter than Google in knowing how to optimize their operating system? What about the hardware? Are the Apple A-whatever chips superior than what these Android clones are putting in their phones?

Oh… I forgot… Android is *so* flexible, it can do anything (except deal with the computation requirements of encrypted data). <snark intended>

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