Gift Guide: 9 security and privacy gifts to keep your friends and family safe

Welcome to TechCrunch’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide! Need help with gift ideas? We’re here to help! We’ll be rolling out gift guides from now through the end of December. You can find our other guides right here.

For many of us, being home a lot more right now also means being online a lot more. It’s a great time to evaluate how you’re keeping your data safe — and to help others in your life do the same.

Whether it’s teaching them to use things like physical security keys or just convincing them to stop writing their passwords on sticky notes, there are LOTS of little ways to nudge your friends and family in a safer direction. We’ve put together an array of gift ideas that’ll help them keep things locked down without breaking the bank (and, if you’re the one they’d call to help clean up after a security incident, probably save you some time in the end.)

Much of what we wrote for our 2019 guide still holds true. There are some timeless security essentials that you can’t miss out on, and we’ve searched around for the best deals. But we also have a few more fun gift ideas up our sleeves for the holiday season.

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Timeless security essentials for your friends and family

(Images from top-left clockwise: Yubico, 1Password, Amazon, and Amazon)

A password manager subscription

Password managers are a real lifesaver. One strong, unique password lets you into your entire bank of passwords. They’re great for storing your passwords and other secrets, but also for encouraging you to use better, stronger, unique passwords. And because many are cross-platform, you can bring your passwords with you. Plenty of password managers exist — from LastPass, Lockbox, and Dashlane, to open-source versions like KeePass. Many are free, but a premium subscription often comes with benefits and better features. And if you’re a journalist, 1Password has a free subscription just for you.

Price: Many free, premium offerings start at $36 – $45 annually
Available from: 1Password | LastPass | Dashlane | KeePass

Don’t forget about a physical two-factor key

Your online accounts have everything about you and you’d want to keep them safe. A security key is a physical hardware device that offers far greater protections than a two-factor code going to your phone. A security key plugs into your USB port on your computer (or the charging port on your phone) to “prove” to online services, like Facebook, Google, and Twitter, that you are who you say you are. YubiKeys are by far our favorite and come in all shapes and sizes. The latest YubiKey 5 series has something for everyone, no matter what kind of devices they have. They’re also cheap. Google also has a range of its own branded Titan security keys, one of which also offers Bluetooth connectivity.

Price: From $25 to $55, depending on device type, from Yubico Store or Google Store

A webcam cover to protect your privacy

We’re all living through this pandemic together, and most of us are still working from home. If you, like me, have accidentally joined a video call by mistake, you’ll be more thankful for your webcam cover than you could ever know. Webcam covers slide open when you need to access your camera, and slides to cover the lens when you don’t. It’s that easy. You can buy webcam covers from practically anywhere — just make sure you get a thin cover that supports your device so as to not damage its display when you close the lid. You can support local businesses and non-profits — you can search for unique and interesting webcam covers on Etsy or from your favorite internet rights group.

Price: from $5 – $10.
Available from: Etsy | Electronic Frontier Foundation

A microphone blocker to prevent hot mics (and malware)

Now you have your webcam cover, what about your microphone? Just as hackers can tap into your webcam, they can also pick up on your audio. Microphone blockers contain a semiconductor that tricks your computer or device into thinking that it’s a working microphone, when in fact it’s not able to pick up any audio. Anyone hacking into your device won’t hear a thing. Some modern Macs already come with a new Apple T2 security chip which prevents hackers from snooping on your microphone when your laptop’s lid is shut. But a microphone blocker will work all the time, even when the lid is open.

Price: from $7 to $20 on Amazon


More gifts for the security and privacy minded

A Pi-hole to block pesky ads and online trackers

(Image: Pi-Hole)

Think of a Pi-hole as a “hardware ad-blocker.” A Pi-hole is a modified Raspberry Pi mini-computer that runs ad-blocking technology as a box that sits on your network. It means that everyone on your home network benefits from ad blocking. Online ads generate revenue for websites but are also notorious for tracking users across the web. Until ads can behave properly, a Pi-hole is a great way to capture and sinkhole bad ad traffic. The hardware may be cheap, but the ad-blocking software is free. Donations to the cause are welcome.

Price: from $35.
Available from: Pi-hole | Raspberry Pi

Get your computer or phone a privacy screen

(Image: Amazon)

How often have you seen someone’s private messages or documents as you look over their shoulder, or see them in the next seat over? It’s not as much of an issue when we’re all at home — but we’re also all getting pretty comfortable with having whatever on our screens right now, which might not be the best habit to develop. Privacy screens can help protect you from “visual hacking.” These screens make it near-impossible for anyone other than the device user to snoop at what you’re working on. And, you can get them for all kinds of devices and displays — including phones. But make sure you get the right size!

Price: from about $17 and up, depending on display size
Available from: Amazon

Find a perfect fit with authentic hacker apparel

(Image: Zero Day Clothing)

Ditch the stereotypical hacker hoodie, and get some decent hacker apparel instead. Zero Day Clothing has some excellent t-shirts and other clothing for your hacker or security-minded friends, from celebrating Diffie-Hellman encryption, fearing the botnet, or designing your own — there’s something for everyone. We’re particularly a fan because the company supports a ton of causes, from net neutrality all the way to freedom of speech and LGBTQ+ rights and fair access to knowledge and education.

Available from: Zero Day Clothing

A Raspberry Pi 400 computer for tinkering

(Image: Romain Dillet/TechCrunch)

The micro-computer maker has a new product, the Raspberry Pi 400, a personal computer kit built into a keyboard and mouse. Connect it to a display and you can get started almost immediately. The device is more powerful than a Chromebook, and allows you to build, develop, and tinker to your heart’s content.

Price: $70
Available from: Raspberry Pi

Test your hacker skills with the ‘Backdoors & Breaches’ card game

(Image: Black Hills Infosec)

Backdoors & Breaches is a security-focused card game, developed by Black Hills Infosec, designed to help you conduct incident response exercises while learning about attack tactics, tools, and techniques. It’s a great way to learn more about how to respond after a breach. Don’t worry if you can’t play in person any time soon — you can still play virtually, thanks to an active Discord channel.

Available from: Shopify

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