Amazon Silk offers increased security on open Wi-Fi networks

The browser doesn't use a SSL proxy, and user activity is anonymous, Amazon says

The cloud-based design of Amazon's Silk browser has positive security side effects because it encrypts all traffic between users and websites, especially important when connected over unprotected Wi-Fi networks where session hijacking attacks can occur easily, the company said.

Amazon developed Silk to increase browsing performance on its new Android-based tablet, the Kindle Fire, by leveraging the power of the company's AWS servers to process and optimize Web content requested by users.

Soon after its release, the browser came under criticism for the alleged risks it poses to user privacy and security. The main issues revolve around the browsing data logged by the company and its handling of SSL traffic.

In a dialog with digital rights watchdog the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Amazon tried to alleviate some of the fears associated with Silk's split-browser architecture. For one it clarified that HTTPS requests do not use cloud acceleration and are routed directly to users.

As for browsing data, the company said it keeps an anonymized record of visited URLs, along with corresponding timestamps and session tokens, for 30 days, and that information cannot be tied to individual users.

One interesting piece of information that came out of Amazon's talk with the EFF is the company's contention that Silk can actually increase security. "The persistent SPDY [networking protocol] connection between the user's tablet and Amazon's servers is always encrypted," the EFF said. "Accordingly, if you are using your tablet on an open WiFi network, other users on that network will not be able to spy on your browsing behavior."

This is a security layer that users normally implement by routing traffic through secure VPNs (virtual private networks) after they connect to open Wi-Fi access points.

Man-in-the-middle attacks that allow hackers to hijack user accounts are trivial to execute over unprotected wireless network. Browser extensions and other automated tools make these techniques accessible to non-technical users.

The EFF developed a Firefox extension in collaboration with The Tor Project called "HTTPS Everywhere," which forces HTTPS to be used on a large number of popular websites that support it.

However, this type of connection can cause problems with some services. For example, many third-party applications don't work over HTTPS on Facebook, and websites that load external resources have similar issues, because unsigned content is insecure.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags cloud computinginternetwirelessNetworkingamazon.comWLANs / Wi-FiElectronic Frontier Foundation

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?