Holiday gift guides always struggle when faced with nailing down a list for hackers -- that's because hackers are as diverse in their interests and fascinations as they are diverse in gender, color, size and everything else. Someone with a multi-focused set of curiosity and unique gifts for finding out what makes the crackable crack may seem like a daunting individual to stuff a stocking for ... but don't fret. With a keen eye on the latest interests in hacker culture, we've got a gift guide that can make the hacker in your life smile as they enjoy using your gift to hack and explore throughout the coming year.
Anonymity online: The Onion Pi
One of the most popular "snake oil" (fake) privacy gadgets is the so-called "Tor in a box" -- a plug-and-play gadget that promises to make you anonymous online. Nearly all of these are made by clueless charlatans whose products put you at risk for privacy and security breaches. But your favorite hacker can just make or build an "Onion Pi" for $69.95, and with this free tutorial.
With Attribution Dice ($20), anyone can be a high-priced security consultant, and predict breach headlines before PR firms have a chance to feed them to reporters! With every security breach, hackers roll their eyes when headlines and PR firms roll out the same old, same old terms, methods and culprits. Instead of rolling eyes, your hacker can roll the dice, and wow friends, family and neighbors with their hacker cyber-powers.
21 Bitcoin Computer
Money is always a welcome gift. Give the gift of going hands-on with Bitcoin with the 21 Bitcoin Computer. "The 21 Bitcoin Computer is ideal for buying and selling digital goods and services. You can use it to create bitcoin-payable APIs, set up your own personal digital goods store, pay people to share your content online, or host online games of skill." It's not cheap ($395) and comes with controversy, but it's a cool toy with a lot of potential, and 21 Inc. is going to be releasing an open source package for the device soon.
Gentleman's Bogota Lockpicks and Clear Practice Lock
Conventional wisdom suggests that all hackers know how to pick locks, but can they do it in style? A perfect stocking stuffer for slick hackers of all genders is the Gentleman's Bogota lockpick set ($34.95). These featherweights pin discreetly to a collar, hat, sleeve, vest, hemline, or wherever they choose. If the hacker you're shopping for wants to learn lockpicking, or just brush up on technique, throw in the clever Clear Practice Lock ($34.95).
Inverse Path USB Armory
In this reviewer's opinion, every hacker should have a USB Armory in their stocking this year. The Inverse Path USB Armory ($130) is a little USB stick with an entire computer onboard (800MHz ARM processor, 512MB RAM), designed to be a portable platform for personal security applications -- and lives up to its reputation as "the Swiss Army Knife of security devices."
Hack-A-Day Gift Card
Cornerstone of hacker culture Hack-A-Day has a store offering gift cards and merchandise a-plenty. In it, you'll find a Bukito portable 3D printer ($899.97), ever-popular Facedancer21 and Gootfet42, a low energy Bluetooth Arduino microcontroller called the Lightblue Bean, and the pocket-sized open source robot arm, Mearm.
Hackers 20th Anniversary Blu-Ray Edition
Hack the planet! The 20th anniversary of influential 1995 cyberpunk film "Hackers" was this year, and this cult classic got a special edition Blu-ray release, making it the must-have for the hackers in your life. The 20th anniversary "Hackers" Blu-ray features an hour-long "making of" documentary, rich video and audio transfer for the film itself, and interviews with: Cast members Matthew Lillard, Fisher Stevens, and Penn Jillette; hacking consultants Nicholas Jarecki and Emmanuel Goldstein; Director Iain Softley, and many more involved with the film's production and style.
A Hacker's hope for better sleep: The Re-Timer
Hackers are increasingly hacking themselves to make their own systems run better, and one thing hackers struggle with is their sleep cycles and feeling rested. Something that can help out is the Re-Timer ($299), a retro-future looking set of glasses and kit that adjusts the circadian rhythm and suppresses the body's production of melatonin (the sleepy hormone our bodies produce which makes us feel tired). Based on 25 years of research and on the market worldwide for three years, the Re-Timer has its own jet lag calculator app, as well as its Sleep App for Fitbit that makes a customized schedule based on actual sleep tracked.
USB Rubber Ducky Deluxe and LAN Turtle
A longtime favorite with hackers, penetration testers and IT professionals, the USB Rubber Ducky Deluxe ($42.99)is a cross-platform (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android) testing and experimentation device that is detected as a keyboard -- imagine the possibilities. This stocking stuffer pairs well with its animal friend LAN Turtle ($50), a covert sysadmin and pentest tool for remote access, network intel gathering, and man-in-the-middle monitoring through a simple graphic shell (all in a generic USB ethernet adapter case).
TechShop Gift Certificate
Give the gift of hacking and making: A gift certificate to a TechShop. "Part fabrication and prototyping studio, part hackerspace and part learning center, TechShop provides access to over $1 million worth of professional equipment and software. We offer comprehensive instruction and expert staff to ensure you have a safe, meaningful and rewarding experience." There are TechShops in Arizona, California, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia/Washington, D.C. (some states have multiple locations). Future locations include St. Louis, MO and Paris, France.
Products to avoid
If you see these products, run! You're better off with a lump of coal. Don't waste precious holiday money on "snake oil" privacy and security products like these:
- iGuardian (now SHIELD)
- Sever: The Anti-Villain Box
Image credits: Adafruit, Cyber Attribution, 21 Bitcoin Computer, Rift Recon, Inverse Path, Hack-A-Day, CNET, Re-Timer Press Kit, Hak5, TechShop San Francisco.