Roku, Amazon Fire TV and backdoor WiFi Direct networks shipping on these devices without an off switch?

I am that odd combination of 21st century tech savvy and 19th century distrusting Luddite. I know enough about technology, to while grateful for its wonders, be always mindful of its potential horrors.

I think a lot of smart people get enamored of the former, and only think too late of the latter.

I don’t have an X-BOX in my house because, while a lauded gaming machine it also has the potential to be an unscrupulous company’s marketing and privacy invasion wet dream. It is perhaps the most perfect spying machine the American public has paid to be in their homes.
You can believe that or not, the specs are there if you choose to look, or not.

I don’t go looking for issues, but I like for the things I buy to do just what I buy them to do, and not much more. So I notice when undocumented ‘features’ pop up.

In the case of the Amazon Fire and the 3600R Roku Streaming Stick it meant while using these devices I noticed they were each generating another wireless hotspot ON TOP OF my wireless signal.

A technology, that subsequent research told me was WiFi Direct, a rather odd way for these devices to supposedly just connect to their remotes. But you don’t need to create a separate network to do that. I do not like Backdoors at the best of times, I especially dislike backdoors and ‘features’ that lack upfront documentation and a clear off switch.

I found a way to disable Roku’s WiFi direct, thanks to Jo Rhett over at Net Consonnace. He or she gets my hero of the day award. See the solution here:

http://www.netconsonance.com/2016/06/how-to-prevent-roku-wifi-direct-breaking-5ghz/

Here are the instructions to fix it.
Start up the Roku and get to the home screen.
Press these 10 buttons quickly: HOME-HOME-HOME-HOME-HOME-FFWD-PLAY-REWIND-PLAY-FFWD
Select “Wireless Secret Screen” from the menu choices
Select “Interference” from the menu choices
Choose “None”

There is also an option to shift power to low, as well as an option to disable the Roku’s AP (Access Point) all together. This is what I chose to do, and utilize the remote on the phone or tablet to control my roku. Job done.

No more unwanted secondary netwok in my home.

Shame on companies like Roku and Amazon and Microsoft for 1/ not clearly informing you of the scope of these devices you purchase and 2/not providing a simple off switch to defeat/disable these technologies (mic, camera, wireless, Wi-Fi direct) should you, the purchaser, choose.

Amazon Fire likewise has a defeat procedure for its piggybacking hotspot. I’ll update this article with that link as well.

Be wary of smart tvs, and smart refrigerators, and smart thermostats, because increasingly these devices might define their intelligence by virtue of your ignorance to notice or control their communication. 🙂

I hope you guys have found this article useful. It puts in one place info that I found incredib!y helpful and a bit elusive. Thanks for looking!

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