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Best gifts for hackers 2021: Top cybersecurity presents

From hobbyist hackers and programmers to professionals, people will love our picks for tech gifts this holiday season.

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The best ethical hacking certification 2021

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While hackers are often associated with criminal acts, the difference between white hat and black hat activities is important to remember. These days, with cyberattacks increasing in scope and complexity, we need professional, ethical hackers to help protect the day-to-day services we all use. And we especially need to encourage younger people who already have an interest in this field.

If you're looking for holiday gifts that will appeal to someone interested in cybersecurity or programming, the hunt can be a challenge. We've rounded up our picks for the top gift options, including books for study or entertainment, fun stocking stuffers, high-tech kits, and more for your loved one to enjoy. 

Here are interesting, fun, and useful gift options for the hacker in your life throughout the 2021 holiday season.

This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends by Nicole Perlroth

Learn about the digital arms race

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Amazon

This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends by Nicole Perlroth should be on the bookshelves of those interested in cybersecurity. Perlroth, a cybersecurity reporter, explores the role of the United States in the digital arms race and includes tales of zero-day exploitation, hacker-for-hire mercenaries, and even how the country's own specialists were duped into working against them.  

Raspberry Pi 400

Learn how to program

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Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi 400 is a mini computer -- within a keyboard -- that is a great starting point for learning the basics of computing programming. The Pi 400 includes a memory card preloaded with the Raspberry Pi operating system, 4GB RAM, 4K video playback, wireless connectivity, and other features. (Monitor not included.)

Learn more: 

The Art of Invisibility by Kevin Mitnick

Learn about modern surveillance

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Amazon

Kevin Mitnick's The Art of Invisibility: The World's Most Famous Hacker Teaches You How to Be Safe in the Age of Big Brother and Big Data is a classic book that anyone interested in cybersecurity would appreciate. Mitnick, once on the FBI's Most Wanted list, explores modern surveillance and how we can limited its impact on our privacy and security.

HackerBoxes Monthly Subscription

Learn about hacking, programming, and DIY electronics

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Hacker Boxers

For a slightly different option, check out HackerBoxes, a monthly subscription box full of interesting gadgets and tools for those interested in programming, DIY electronics, and hacking. Past boxes have included Capture the Flag projects, radio-over-internet kit, novelty items, and proximity detection gadgets. 

Shark Jack

Learn about intelligence gathering

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Hak5

An interesting gift for researchers and pen testers, the Shark Jack is a portable tool for network reconnaissance and wired network auditing. The kit comes with a rapid nmap payload and both attack/arm switches. Payloads can also be developed in bash and by using Linux tools. 

Social Engineering by Christopher Hadnagy

Learn how social engineering is used in hacking

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Amazon

Social Engineering: The Science of Human Hacking by Christopher Hadnagy is an older but still valuable guide on how social engineering is used to phish, impersonate others, obtain their data, secure access to restricted buildings and services, and more. If you know someone interested in security and psychology, this could the perfect gift this holiday season. 

ALFA wireless extender

Learn about wireless networks

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Amazon

The ALFA wireless extender is a useful accessory for those learning about wireless networks. Powered by USB and suitable for Linux and Windows machines, the extender can be used to enhance your range when using network sniffing tools, such as those on Kali Linux. Monitor mode is supported.

Also: Best Wi-Fi extender in 2021: Boost your Wi-Fi range

Bash Bunny

Learn the ins and outs of a USB attack platform

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Hak5

Bash Bunny is another option from Hak5. The latest version, Mark II, is a payload deployer over USB and can go from "plug to pwn in 7 seconds" claims the company. Bash Bunny has been improved to be quicker and now supports wireless geofencing and microSD.

Wi-Fi Pineapple

Learn how to command the airspace

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Hak5

Wi-Fi Pineapple, Mark VII, is kit designed for wireless security assessments and auditing. Among its features is a dashboard for active and passive monitoring, a rogue access point facility for conducting Man-in-The-Middle (MiTM) attacks, and report generation.

This device is available in basic Mark VII all the way up to enterprise specifications. 

APIMOTE ZigBee Security Tool

Learn about the security of IEEE 802.15.4/ZigBee systems

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Hacker Gadgets

The APIMOTE ZigBee Security Tool is a professional tool designed for academic researchers and students. Likely to make a valued gift for these individuals, the kit is pre-flashed with KillerBee and can be used to investigate IEEE 802.15.4/ZigBee systems.

How did we choose these products?

It can be a challenge to find specialist gifts -- whether the field you're interested in is cybersecurity or otherwise -- so we examined products that would appeal to the widest customer base available. Or, at least products that will keep the hackers in your life busy and out of mischief. 

Need more gift ideas?

Check out our ZDNet Recommends directory or Holiday Gifts hub for some more inspiration.