Can your gift wishlist be hacked?

Whatever you celebrate this year, no one wants to open the wrapping to find a gift that runs surveillance on you.

It’s the holiday season, and that means working out what sort of things you want. From smartphones to video game consoles to headsets and more, there’s little doubt that 2017 will be a technology-fuelled product wishlist of awesomeness.

But hold up, because with technology what it is, it’s worth finding out whether what you’re buying and what you’re expecting can be hacked, and whether or not your home needs security centralised to thwart those measures.

In fact, this year, McAfee has released a list of what it believes are the most hackable gifts, starting with computers, and including devices like connected toys, connected appliances, and drones, with the latter easily opened depending on the attack available.

For instance, connected toys with microphones and location-based activities can apparently be a target for cyber criminals due to those very sensors, while drones can succumb to an attack called “drone jacking”, which essentially takes over your drone and removes it from your presence.

McAfee’s research into the area even found that while 90 percent of consumers believe security is necessary for the likes of laptops, tablets, and smartphones — areas expected to be big for holiday gifts this year — less than 30 percent believed the same when connected to drones, fitness trackers, virtual reality headsets, and those aforementioned connected toys.

We’re not sure of the VR headset side of things, and have yet to see either a wired headset like the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift require security, nor even Samsung’s Gear VR, but certainly the hardware needed to power both of them — computer or phone — does need that security.

However, in the case of drones, toys, appliances with microphones and sensors, and even security cameras for the home, we can see why McAfee may have some cause for concern.

“We continue to see connected devices high on holiday wish lists, but it’s clear consumers don’t always understand the importance of protecting devices at every point of connection and within products themselves,” said Alex Merton-McCann, “Cybermum” for McAfee.

“In many cases, consumers are simply unaware that their devices need to be protected or how to protect them. This lack of awareness and action can be exploited by cybercriminals to break into devices and steal personal information,” she said.

While attacks on connected devices like toys and appliances aren’t quite common yet, preventing the attacks in the first place and stopping them from happening are likely to be the thing that helps, and there are several ways to do that.

On the laptop, tablet, and smartphone side, it’s pretty easy, with a security subscription, however with connected devices at home, it’s ideal to ensure your home network has its password encryption online with a complicated password that you’re not advertising to the world.

Alternatively, it might be worth considering a security solution for the middle of the home, with an appliance that aims to prevent attacks on devices by basically being a security subscription for the entire home and what’s connected to the network, not just the computers in your life.

And always keep these devices upgraded and updated: remember that just because you’ve bought it or unwrapped it recently, doesn’t mean it’s still up to date. Updates happen so regularly, it’s worth checking to see whether the day your present was unboxed was the day you needed to update its software, too.

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