Amazon will reinstate device encryption after removal from Fire OS 5

Amazon quietly removed device encryption support from Fire OS 5 last fall.
Amazon quietly removed device encryption support from Fire OS 5 last fall.

Amazon is warning customers it has disabled storage encryption on Fire OS version 5 tablets and Kindles.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) member David Scovetta, a senior security analyst and researcher, tweeted a screenshot of the company's digital user guide informing users the feature is no longer supported.

Users looking to keep their files encrypted should not update to the latest version, the guide said.

Realization of the change comes at a time when Apple is fighting a high profile legal battle in support of encryption against the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) although Amazon said the feature was removed prior to the controversy.

“In the fall when we released Fire OS 5, we removed some enterprise features that we found customers weren't using," Amazon said in a statement emailed to SCMagazine.com. "All Fire tablets' communication with Amazon's cloud meet our high standards for privacy and security including appropriate use of encryption.”

Regardless of the timing, the move has sparked debates on Amazon customer forums over whether customers should update the devices and risk the security of their data or risk not updating and remain susceptible to potential vulnerabilities in older versions.

Some users pointed out that they will no longer be able to use their corporate email or other activities that require device storage encryption as a security measure.

Scovetta told SCMagazine.com that Amazon has incentive to keep complexity and costs low across their tech products and noted that encryption may have been too costly to maintain.

“I think all the attention this is getting would certainly call into question that characterization as an insignificant feature that wouldn't be missed,” Scovetta said, adding, “I'm not about to throw my Kindle out, but I may be more wary of using some of their echo products."

Scovetta encouraged tech professionals and consumers alike to keep pressure on Amazon to release an update enabling encryption.

“It's hard to sell trust on products that take shortcuts on security," Scovetta said. "We need respected companies like Amazon to lead people towards positive security practices."

UPDATE: In a later statement Amazon told SCMagazine.com that an option for full disk encryption will be included in a Fire OS update to be released in the spring.

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