If you’ve set up a new Amazon device recently, you may have noticed that, somehow, it automatically connected to your WiFi network without you needing to enter your WiFi password. I’ve seen plenty of threads and comments from people wondering how this could happen and even some with concern that it means their WiFi network might be compromised or less secure. Others, with good intentions, are often quick to point out that they must have allowed Amazon to store their WiFi password, but that’s actually only half the solution. Even if a password is stored in the cloud, how can a new device retrieve the password if the thing it is retrieving is what it needs to connect to the cloud in the first place? Here’s an explanation of how new devices, even those not made by Amazon, are able to already know your WiFi password all on their own.
The first half of how new devices know your WiFi password is fairly obvious to anyone who has paid attention to the prompts presented during the setup of a new Amazon device. Most new Amazon devices will ask you if it is okay to save your WiFi password to Amazon. This was added to Fire TVs back in 2019 and has been a regular part of the setup of most, if not all, new Amazon devices for some time.
If you allow the option, your WiFi password and network name are stored on Amazon’s servers and associated with your Amazon account. If you change your mind or accidentally allowed the option without realizing it, you can delete all of your saved WiFi passwords. You can also select to disable the automatic WiFi network connection altogether by disabling the feature on your account, which Amazon calls WiFi Simple Setup. Just go to the “Saved WiFi Passwords” section of the “Preferences” tab on Amazon’s “Manage Your Content and Devices” page to find both options.
Now that your WiFi password is stored by Amazon, how can it possibly get transferred to a device that isn’t online yet? That’s the other half of the puzzle that many people misunderstand. I’ve seen plenty of people incorrectly state that when you buy an Amazon device, your WiFi password is transferred to the device before being shipped. It’s understandable to think that since, even back when the first Fire TV was released in 2014, Amazon would automatically pre-register devices to your Amazon account so that you didn’t have to enter your Amazon email address and password during setup. However, even that time-saving feature doesn’t store or transfer anything on the device being purchased.
When you purchase a device with Simple Setup capabilities from Amazon, there is a pre-checked option during checkout that associates the device with your Amazon account. How that works is, just before the device is packed for shipping, a barcode on the box containing the device’s serial number is scanned. That serial number gets associated with your account so that, once the device gets online, it sends its serial number to Amazon’s servers to figure out which Amazon account, if any, it should automatically log itself into. If you’re buying a device as a gift, you can, and should, uncheck that option during checkout so that the device doesn’t automatically log itself into your Amazon account when it gets set up.
So that’s how a device can be pre-registered to your Amazon account, saving you the hassle of logging into your Amazon account, but that only works after it is already online. The way it automatically gets online in the first place is through the help of your other devices that are already connected to the internet. Devices compatible with Amazon’s WiFi Simple Setup system, which are already online, are constantly broadcasting a connection that new devices search for. Amazon describes this connection as a “pre-defined, hidden, and restricted Wi-Fi network.”
A new device being set up for the first time will connect to Amazon’s cloud through the helper device that is already online. If the new device and the helper device are both associated with the same Amazon account and that account has a WiFi password saved, then that WiFi password is transferred to the new device. That’s how it’s able to get online without you needing to enter your WiFi password.
This system isn’t actually limited to Amazon devices, since Amazon allows other device manufacturers to use it. Devices from TP-Link, Arris, and ASUS already use Amazon’s WiFi Simple Setup system. For example, this smart plug from TP-Link Kasa has “Wi-Fi Simple Setup” in its product title. When purchasing it, you’ll see a checkbox that says “Link to my Alexa account and to TP-Link to simplify setup.” This option, when checked, will allow the smart plug to pull down your WiFi password from Amazon’s cloud, just like Amazon’s own devices.
So that’s how new Fire TVs, Echos, Fire tablets, and smart home devices from 3rd-parties connect to your WiFi network without you needing to enter your password. The system rightfully needs a lot of factors to be in place and line up for it to work, due to obvious security concerns, but when all the pieces are in place, it results in a very quick setup process that involves little to no password typing.