Cybersecurity Carol: This Year’s Most Hackable Holiday Gifts

A classic holiday story is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, which tells the tale of how a grumpy man learns from his mistakes, as guided by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Funny enough, our most Hackable Gifts Campaign resembles this tale, as there are lessons we’ve learned around holiday shopping in year’s past, important takeaways from this year’s findings, and, of course, things we need to start thinking ahead to. Now, in its third year, the McAfee Most Hackable Holiday Gifts survey is here again to examine how consumers approach device security around the holidays, and what they need to stay secure while staying in the yuletide sprit. Let’s take a look at what we can learn from McAfee’s Most Hackable Holiday Gifts past, present, and future.

Source: SecuringTomorrow


Laptops and PCs

Big-ticket gifts like laptops and PCs are always popular items. They’re also always at the top of the list for cybercriminals to crack. Securing these devices isn’t difficult, though. Just make sure you activate security applications as part of the initial startup of your brand new device, and ensure you keep the software up to date.

Smartphones and Tablets

According to our survey, 52 percent of users plan to purchase either a smartphone or tablet this holiday shopping season. Much like their laptop and desktop brethren, these devices are vulnerable to malware and need to be protected, as well. Here, good passwords and good security practices, such as installing a security application like McAfee Mobile Security, avoiding suspicious third-party applications, and using a PIN to lock your device can help.

Media Players and Streaming Sticks

Media players and streaming sticks are a new, growing product category. They hook into just about any television and provide an easy and convenient way to watch shows, movies and more. But the security of these devices do need to be maintained. They need to be updated regularly and, if the option is available, protected by complex passwords. Fortunately, many device manufactures push automatic updates directly to these devices, but you can do a manual check depending on device and its manufacturer.

Smart Home Automation Devices and Applications

The Internet of Things (IoT), a family of devices that connect to the internet and in turn connect to each other, is a wonderful category to go to when finding a gift for a friend or family member this year. However, they are often times the most vulnerable of the holiday gift-giving bunch. Some devices have weak security standards. Others lack any security standards at all.

If you’re considering a gift under the “IoT” umbrella, then do your research. Make sure you’re aware of the security standards your device has. Read online reviews for the connected gadgets you are considering, and that you’re aware of any security shortcomings you may encounter. After all, cybercriminals have found many ways to trick smartlocks, thermostats and more to use these devices in distributed denial of service attacks like the attack that took down many popular websites.


Finally, perhaps the hottest-ticket item of the year: drones. In fact, drone sales are expected to grow to more than $20 billion by 2020. They offer the ability to capture amazing videos, intriguing sights and are useful tools to get eyes where it’s hard to see. However, they still need to be secured. Again, using a complex password at least eight characters long with random numbers, letters and symbols is necessary for safe operation.

The Past

Consumers realize the importance of protecting their online identity and internet-connected devices, but are unsure if they are taking the right security measures or don’t care to make security a giant priority. Out of the 1,206 adults surveyed this year, 20% of consumers are not worried about internet security and would still buy a must-have connected device if they knew it was susceptible to security breaches. For 40%, security is not a top priority, but considered after purchase.

This is troubling becausethe top spot for the Most Hackable Gifts are internet-connected devices. Specifically– laptops, smartphones, and tablets, which are common gifts as they tend to be released around the holidays.

There are numerous use-cases when in real time smart gadgets could be hacked. It’s important to keep in mind that drones can be hacked in flight and smart home devices can be used as pawns in a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS). So, it’s crucial to be wary when eyeing both as potential gifts for loved ones.

The Present

Few things have changed in 2017 for instance, media players and streaming sticks are replaced by new connected toys. Since manufacturers are rushing to connect almost everything to the internet, it only makes sense that the toys that children play with are no different. Many toys come equipped with GPS chips, microphones and even cameras. But manufacturers may not be putting these devices’ security as a top priority, which could leave these toys vulnerable to leaking personal information or even allow hackers to hijack the camera or microphone. Another new device on our list: digital assistants. They are the new hot item of 2017, and make great gifts for just about anyone, but like any connected device, digital assistants can be the target of cybercriminals.

And since connected devices are more popular than ever in present day, it only makes sense that consumers have now started trading them in for an upgrade. In fact, 50% of respondents plan to give away or sell an old connected device after receiving a new one for the holidays, but 20% claim they do not know how to permanently delete their personal information before selling or giving away old devices.

The Future

Now, the holiday season is here. But that doesn’t mean it’s too late to start preparing for your future security. To ensure your future is merry and bright, some of these things you should be aware of:

  • Change default passwords, and do an update right away. If you receive a connected gift, change the default password first and foremost. Default manufacturer passwords are rather easy for criminals to crack. Also, your device’s software will need to be updated at some point. In a lot of cases, devices will have updates waiting from them as soon as they’re taken out of the box. The first time you power up your device, you should check to see if there are any updates or patches from the manufacturer.
  • Research before you buy. It’s important you do your homework to make sure that the toy you are purchasing has not had any reported security issues. A simple Google search on the product, as well as the manufacturer, will often do the trick.
  • Secure your home’s internet at the source. You can do this by using a solution like McAfee Secure Home Platform to ensure that you know what is connecting to your network and the devices on it. Additionally, be sure to read the privacy policies provided by manufacturers so you know exactly what information your device is collecting.

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