1

My grandfather is interested in buying a smart tablet. He never had any personal computer or any internet connection. He wants to use his tablet solely to read the newspaper, as they no longer deliver in his area. He intends to download the latest issue of the newspaper by walking close to our house, temporarily connect to our internet, download the issue, and head back to his home, where he doesn't have internet.

Some members of my family claim that he does not need to install any OS update, because he connects to the internet for a small amount of time, and because in the event that he catches a virus, he doesn't have any data that could be stolen by ransomware.

What are the risks of connecting a device that did not receive any security update to the internet for a small amount of time every once in a while? Should I worry? What should I tell my family?

0

OS (and app, for that matter) updates should always be installed and kept up-to-date. They are meant to do a lot of things including, but not limited to:

  1. Bug fixes : What if the user of the tablet realises a feature does not work as intended. It could be resolved through bug fixes.

  2. Fixing vulnerabilities : Attacks on the tablet could happen not only through the internet, but also through, say, Bluetooth. And who is to say the tablet won't be used for other purposes in future?

  3. New features : Of course, this is not related to security, but it could even enhance the tablet's user experience (or make it worse, you never know).

Also, even though the connectivity to internet would be infrequent for now, but you never know, what if the newspaper website or the server itself gets compromised? Or what if the tablet slowly starts getting used for other purposes as the user starts exploring the features of tablet.

Hence I'd recommend updating the apps as well as the OS as and when they're available. While this would certainly not guarantee zero vulnerabilities, but it would definitely help in minimising them.

2
  • Can you explain why and how and at which rate a device behind a nat router is a target of an attack? I'd value a device that just works and doesn't change the user interface or lose installed programs with each update much more than an abstract and unquantifyable security benefit.
    – Haukinger
    Nov 22 '21 at 15:25
  • +1 From the OP's perspective ("What should I tell my family?"), the best thing to tell them would be this: Newspaper website compromised > grandfather's tablet compromised > family's network compromised. That ought to do it ;)
    – user218666
    Dec 22 '21 at 11:49
0

Accessing internet infrequently on vulnerable device is still risky, but in this situation "downloading issue of newspaper" & "no data on device" I wouldn't force an update, on the condition that it is the only purpose and the site is trusted.

To add on that. There are 2 main risks that you should worry currently:

  1. Your network is already infected and connecting vulnerable device would allow it to spread easily.
  2. Connecting vulnerable device to your network and let it download something is the easiest point of entry for attacker.

And just because there is not data on the device it does not mean that infecting it isn't problematic for user and anyone on the network. If you want to spooke them, you can mention that infected devices can listen and take pictures, but in reality it is close to impossible that someone would go that far.

P.S. If there aren't any drawback e.g: loss of data/compatibility that comes with update it is always advised to have newest version.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.