Cyber Safety gift guide 2019: 5 great device-security and online-privacy gifts
August 08, 2018 2 min read
If you’re concerned about online security and privacy, here are some gift ideas that can help keep you safer.
Worried about cybercriminals selling your bank account information on the dark web? Or maybe you’re fretting that hackers will use your stolen credit card number to go on a holiday spending binge of their own, using your card to snatch up expensive laptops, flat-screen TVs, and smartphones.
If you are concerned about device security and online privacy — and you should be — then why not celebrate the holidays by giving yourself and others a gift designed to help protect you against online threats? Here’s a look at the some of the best gift ideas — including security software, privacy shields, and VPN services — all of which can help keep cyberthieves, fraudsters, and snoops from accessing your information.
1. Virtual private networks
One of the most effective ways to boost your privacy while online? Invest in a virtual private network, better known as a VPN. As the name suggests, a VPN makes it more difficult for cybercriminals, government agencies, or companies to track your online searches, clicks, or files you download.
How does it work? You sign up with a VPN provider. Then you access the Internet through the service provider. The VPN obscures your IP address so that snoops have no idea what computer or device you are using to log onto the web. Instead, government agencies, companies, and cybercriminals will only see the IP address provided by your VPN. Only you and your VPN provider will know what sites you visited or links you clicked.
If you want to help boost the online privacy of a friend, family member or yourself, then consider VPN service to be the ultimate gift. It is possible to find free VPN providers, but paid options — including Norton Secure VPN — may provide features such as bank-grade encryption and a no-log network.
Some of the top-ranked VPN providers offer monthly or yearly subscriptions. Prices vary, but generally cost about $10 a month to around $100 for a full year.
2. Two-factor authentication keys
Two-factor authentication is another way to help prevent hackers from accessing your online bank accounts, credit card accounts, or email. One of the more robust two-factor methods is hardware security keys.
With traditional two-factor authentication, you log onto a site — such as your bank or credit card portal — and type in your username and password. If you have two-factor authentication enabled, the site will then send a code to another device, usually your smartphone. You then type in that code to access the site.
This is a better solution than relying on passwords alone because passwords can be easier to crack. But skilled cyberthieves can still potentially access these codes. The better way is to carry a two-factor authentication key with you.
These keys, made by a variety of companies, are small pieces of hardware that you keep with you. Instead of relying on a six-digit code as the second part of the two-factor process, you instead plug the key into your computer or smartphone to log into a site.
There are plenty of these devices that you can choose from, and their size makes them nifty stocking stuffers.
The YubiKey from Yubico is one of the more popular of these devices. Prices vary depending on the model, but the most affordable YubiKey retails for $20 while more expensive versions go for as much as $70. The Titan Security Key from Google is another option, starting at $25. Thetis makes its own security key, too, which you can buy for $19.99.*
3. Password managers
Memorizing all those passwords can be tricky. It’s why so many people resort to simplistic passwords or use the same ones at nearly every site. This makes life too easy for cybercriminals.
Password managers can help. These are apps that store all your passwords, meaning that you can create unique, complex passwords for the sites you visit. To access those passwords, you need to remember just one: the password that unlocks your password manager. Of course, this means that this key password must be a strong one, so that others won’t be able to break into your password manager.
Most password managers are free, but there are premium versions out there. Why would you pay for a password manager? Premium ones allow you to store a greater number of passwords and to synchronize your passwords across all your devices.
Here are a few possibilities. 1Password, which costs from $3.99 to $7.99 a month; LastPass, which charges $3 or $4 a month for its premium offerings; and Dashlane, with premium offerings of $4.99 or $9.99 a month.*
4. Privacy screens
They’re not as high-tech, but privacy screens can help keep snoops from peeking at your tablet, laptop, or smartphone screens when you’re in public. These screens cover the displays of your devices. You’ll be able to see your screens just fine. People around you? They’ll only see a dark screen.
Another low-tech but powerful privacy protector? Webcam covers. We’ve all heard horror stories of cybersnoops taking control of the webcams installed on people’s devices. A webcam cover is a simple way to help protect your privacy. As the name suggests, you can slide these devices open and closed across the webcam attached to your laptop, desktop, tablet or phone, keeping you safe from prying eyes.
You can find these devices from companies such as C-Slide, Targus and Spy-Fy. You can find webcam covers for as low as $6.99 on Amazon.*
* The inclusion of websites or links does not imply endorsement or support of any companies, materials, products and/or providers listed herein.
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Dan Rafter is a freelance writer who covers tech, finance, and real estate. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Fox Business.
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