‘All I want for Christmas is you-ooo,” warbles Mariah Carey in every single shop you have been in since October.
But the truth is that most of us will be wanted, and expecting, a great deal more than just the love of our families this Christmas. And if you have kids, the Christmas shopping list is likely to stretch quite considerably further.
Computers, smartphones, and tablets are likely to be high on the wish lists of many people of all ages this Christmas.
This is all well and good, but when giving someone a gift like this, you should also take a moment to think of the consequences.
Just as you wouldn’t give your kid a bicycle without a helmet, or a skateboard without elbow and knee pads, you should also think about what protective tools you should be giving with a computer or mobile device too.
Give a VPN this Christmas
One of the most essential security tools that you and your loved ones should be using on your computers and mobile devices this Christmas is a VPN.
A VPN is an online security tool which encrypts everything you do online to keep it safe from hackers and surveillance operatives.
Almost every cybersecurity expert in the world recommends the use of a VPN when going online.
So, if you are going to buy a laptop or smartphone for your loved one this Christmas, why not invest in a VPN to keep them safe and secure when using it?
If you are worried about the costs, don’t be.
There are lots of great discounts available over the festive period too so clicking on a link on this site can allow you to make even bigger savings.
Other tools you might also want to consider investing in are anti-virus and anti-malware software, a password manager, and a free privacy-friendly search engine such as DuckDuckGo.
Other gadgets to think about
It is not just laptops and smartphones that we will be unwrapping and then quickly connecting to the internet this Christmas. There are lots of other internet-enabled devices and gadgets that will be given and each presents its own privacy and security concerns.
A few of these have been highlighted in an article in the Guardian by Tim Singleton Norton, the chair of campaign group Digital Rights Watch.
He draws attention to the major privacy concerns around so-called smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home Max that can listen and process verbal instructions to play music, set reminders, or tell you the weather forecast.
But these devices also record everything that is happening in your home and send vast quantities of data back to their manufacturers.
They might look cool in the adverts, but the question you should be asking is whether you want Google or Amazon listening in on everything your child or best friend is doing?
Another devices highlighted by Norton is the Amazon ‘Ring’ doorbell, a smart doorbell and camera which allows homeowners to check who is at their door and speak to them remotely.
These smart doorbells have already been hacked by burglars who use them to check the coast is clear before breaking in.
In some countries, including the USA, Amazon has also agreed to share data and images from the devices with law enforcement agencies.
Popular toy manufacturer Vtech settled a case with the US Federal Trade Commission after it was found to be distributing an app with children’s cameras and other devices that transferred audio and visual data back to Vtech without informing parents or requesting consent.
How to secure other devices
It is a lot harder to secure an internet-enabled device such as a toy or a doorbell than it is a laptop or smartphone.
One way is to install a VPN on your router so everything you connect to the internet is protected and secure. But this obviously won’t help if the device is being connected anywhere else. It also won’t stop companies like Google and Vtech from sending personal data back to themselves.
The key is not to be taken in by the fancy adverts and gimmicky shop displays but to shop smart.
Do some research into devices you are thinking of buying to see just how privacy-friendly they are. Read the small print and decide whether it is a device you are happy for your loved one to have.
If there are ways to make a device more secure, such as by installing a VPN, be sure to do so.
If it is harder, it’s still not too late to take it back to the store and buy them something much safer and wholesome, like a bike or a skateboard.
Have a safe, private, and Merry Christmas from the whole VPNCompare team!