A Cybersecurity Carol: Key Takeaways From This Year’s Most Hackable Holiday Gifts

2017 has been a year of great change, and not always the good kind of change either. One thing that’s stood out has been the frankly alarming number of security breaches reported. Emphasis: reported. Who knows what security breaches have gone under the radar? And with the gift-giving season coming upon us, it’s even more important to step back and prioritize security with the tech-based gifts we give. With the McAfee Most Hackable Holiday Gifts list and tips, it’s easier than ever to keep you and your loved ones safe.

The McAfee Most Hackable Holiday Gifts list aims to help consumers identify potential security risks in popular gifts. After all, there’s nothing better than the gift of security, right? Along with the list, McAfee also conducted a survey to identify the habits and behaviours of consumers as they get ready for the holiday season.

How Secure Are Your Spending Habits?

McAfee survey results

Most consumers surveyed agree that security is a necessity for laptops, tablets, and smartphones (69%). However, only 22% believe connected toys require security, 29% that drones should be protected, and 56% that digital assistants need to be secured. Given that anything connected needs to be protected against cyber criminals, these numbers are more than a little worrying.

Almost all consumers (91%) claim that they know it is important to keep their online identity and devices safe. However, only 53% take the necessary steps. 16% assume that the manufacturer has built security into the product. Another 22% know they need to put security precautions in place, but don’t know how.

This only highlights how important it is for consumers to conduct research about a device’s built-in security settings. After all, you can’t just rely on the manufacturers to appropriately lock down the devices and data.

Most Hackable Holiday Gifts

McAfee list of most hackable gifts

1. Laptops/Smartphones/Tablets

Laptops, smartphones, and tablets are traditional targets for cyber criminals. If not properly secured, they can get infected with malicious applications.

2. Drones

Sales of drones are expected to top $1 billion in 2017, but security hasn’t quite caught up. Drone owners therefore need to stay mindful of risks associated with drone jacking, and fake Wi-Fi signals from rogue drones.

3. Digital Assistants

Device-based assistants like the Amazon Echo can help order household items, play music, provide answers to questions, and much more. However, these assistants have microphones that are always listening for a wake-up command. If hacked, or otherwise compromised, this can mean your every word is being recorded. And that’s not even starting with the devices that have cameras!

4. Connected Toys

Toys keep getting smarter, but unfortunately, so do cyber criminals. For many manufacturers, security is an afterthought that can leave toys vulnerable to attack. For example, hackers can target built-in microphones and location-based services to get access to your information.

5. Connected Appliances

A smart home appliance can make daily life a thousand times easier. But these devices can also be used as pawns in an online attack. Or worse, they can leak information about you, your loved ones, and your home.

How Do You Stay Protected?

McAfee suggestions on keeping safe

To help keep your family safe during the holidays, here are some tips:

Think Before You Click

One of the easiest ways for cybercriminals to compromise your device is through a malicious link. Be skeptical if you receive a link or other solicitation that you aren’t expecting.

Update Your Software

Whether it’s your PC, smartphone, digital assistant, or even your drone, keep your software up to date! Manufacturers plug security holes with device updates, so it’s important to always install the latest versions as soon as possible. Where applicable, use security software that’s up to date.

Beware Of Shady Public Wi-Fi Hotspots

Cyber criminals often deploy fake Wi-Fi hotspots that appear to be legitimate, but give them visibility into your browsing habits. If you have to use public Wi-Fi, refrain from doing online shopping or banking.

Do Your Homework

Not all manufacturers take security seriously, especially when it comes to connected toys. It’s therefore important to do your research! Always make sure to check if there have been any reported security vulnerabilities before purchasing.

Protect Your Home Network

Secure all of your connected devices and your home internet at its source with something like McAfee Secure Home Platform. This gives you insight into what devices are on your network, and protects all of your connected devices.


McAfee commissioned MSI-ACI to conduct a survey of 1,206 adults between the ages of 18 and 55 in the United States between September and October 2017. Respondents were individuals who use a connected device daily.

McAfee used the following criteria to compile the list of most hackable devices:

  • Accessibility: Does this device connect to the internet?
  • Communication Security: Does this device use insecure methods of transmitting information?
  • Target Value: Does this device have access to information that would be valuable to a cybercriminal?
  • Activity: Is there active research in the hacking community into exploiting these devices?
  • Wildlife: Are there active exploits roaming the internet looking for this device?