Let me start off with a question, what are the steps involved when it comes to giving someone a gift? Is it as simple as buy, wrap and handover? For the more traditional gifts like perfume this would be the correct answer but if you are giving electronic gifts then you may be leaving out one very important step which is to patch and update the device prior to wrapping. In my part of the world we are at the time of year when lots of gifts are exchanged. For the lucky ones these gifts may be phones, tablets or some other sort of electronic gadget. Getting gifts like this is wonderful but you should not forget about IT security.
Our world is fast becoming the Internet of things. Most devices want to phone home to get updates or in some cases to send out personal information. Out of the box, most electronic devices are vulnerable to attacks as they are running factory install versions of operating systems and applications. In the excitement to get the gadget up and running, security takes a back seat and before you know it it’s infected with a virus or malware. If the device is then used for work (BYOD) or on college campuses, it may cause problems on other networks as well.
I sometimes get asked by family and friends to organise the purchase of a tablet or laptop. In most cases I take the new system out of the box after delivery and install all relevant updates. They are a couple of benefits to this; when someone receives a new gadget, there is nothing worse than switching on the device for the first time and then waiting for lots of updates to install. They will not have this problem when the updates are downloaded in advance. I also remove the trial versions of antivirus and other bloatware that come with some devices. You can get full versions of antivirus and other software which are free for home use. Finally, if the laptop or PC is bought for use in a family environment, it may be worth setting up profiles, passwords and parental controls before everyone starts to use it. Apple and Android devices now come with parental options if you are running the latest versions of the operating systems.
My advice would be that where possible you should update electronic devices before handing them over as gifts. This is especially true if the recipient is not tech savvy or if they do not have access to the Internet. Most devices actually run faster if they are running the latest firmware and applications so it’s a win for the recipient as well.
Finally, if you are a network manager, be prepared for the arrival of new devices on your network after the holidays. Do you have the tools you need to find out what users are doing on your network? Do you bother patching devices before handing them over as gifts or do you leave this to the end user? Comments welcome.