Geek gift guide 2023: Security first, at home and on the go

The COVID-19 public health emergency officially ended in 2023, but the threat of cyberattacks grew. Geeks had security on their minds, along with home comforts and travel gear.

You never know where you might find a geek in 2023. The post-COVID-19 era has officially begun, but many workplaces are still not back to pre-pandemic norms. In any environment, geeks love gadgets and toys both at home and while traveling. This year, cybersecurity was a major priority for most of the IT geeks you know.

Security is a good idea both at home and on the job -- and when the two are one and the same, they're mandatory. At least one high-profile corporate data breach this year attributed to an IT pro accessing company systems from an unsecured home device. In the personal security realm, hardware-based multi-factor authentication (MFA) has emerged as the new standard to replace the conventional password. That's where geek gift gadget buyers are in luck.

"Oh, by far, a YubiKey" was the answer from one of our geek advisors when asked for this year's hot gifts for IT geeks. The YubiKey is a set of multiprotocol authentication devices that "pairs well with all the new gadgets," she said.

Personal cybersecurity tool vendors have also begun to offer software-based passkeys tied to mobile devices, but this experienced cybersecurity expert still prefers a separate device.

"Passkeys tend to be bound to the 'key bag' on the device unless they've been configured to be in a cloud keychain. ... Not everybody remembers them, and also passkeys aren't as universal," she said. "Most MFA systems -- Google, Facebook, etc. -- support the hardware key currently. It's more of an uptake thing. I only have a few that support passkeys."

Plus, now that Apple devices support the USB-C cable standard, YubiKeys work with more devices than ever, this geek added. "They're cheap, come in multi-packs and can be given as gifts to help secure your family the easy way."

YubiKeys are available on Amazon and other online retailers, but the company's website has a quiz to help buyers select the right product. Consider adding a Tile tracker so your gift recipient doesn't lose their YubiKey.

Security-conscious geeks also recommended products from Firewalla to secure home networks.

"Firewalla makes cool, easy-to-use security devices," said another of our geek sources. "Helpful for those with kids who want to control or lock stuff down."

Home automation devices that have proliferated in the last decade can also be used to further lock down a geek's castle, from Wi-Fi garage door openers to a patrolling security camera bot with night vision, so that a geek can remotely close their curtains and feel safe using their gadgets in peace.

A masculine-presenting person opening a gift box, looking surprised.
Delight your geek friends with gadgetry and other gift ideas this holiday season.

Geek gifts for the home

As always, it's mandatory to know your geek when buying geek gifts. Are they a "Macolyte," or do they prefer Android and/or PC devices? What are their hobbies? Do they spend a lot of time on Zoom, or are they returning to the office?

Whatever your geek is into, there are accessories available that make good gifts, including phone stands with built-in chargers; many include smart watch chargers as well. One of our geek buddies recommended iPhone stands that support landscape mode.

It's also hard to go wrong with a good office chair. Our geek advisor mentioned Haworth, which can be on the pricey side, but your geek's back might thank you.

If your geek still hasn't caught up with the Zoom era, consider a high-quality microphone and webcam setup for their home or when they travel away from the office.

"We spend so much time online these days, and so many people still don't have a good microphone or camera," one of our advisors said. "For a really good microphone, I'd recommend the Shure MV7 ($250). The Blue Yeti ($130) is a good alternative with a built-in stand.

"The MV7 can be purchased with a stand, or pick a solid desktop mic stand like the Auray TT-6220 ($17) or a boom mic stand, and you have a great setup," he continued. "For video, I'd recommend the Logitech 4K Pro (formerly called Brio) webcam or the C922 webcam. Both are great and easy to use."

If your geek is into watching the weather, an Internet-connected weather station is a good addition to the list, another geek on our roster advised. "The WeatherFlow Tempest has an API and community, so it's probably of interest to others."

A foodie geek we know recommended a Zojirushi vacuum-insulated hot liquid dispenser, such as the CV-DSC, which he's sworn by for 11 years.

"They last forever, with replacement of a seal now and then, and they transform everything from morning coffee to reconstituting broths and stocks to making syrups," he said. "I use mine literally every day."

Depending on your geek's interests, it might help their overall wellness to suggest home fitness devices to counter remote work inactivity, another of our advisors recommended.

"A lot of us, especially but not only if we're working remotely, get way too little activity in our lives. This sedentary lifestyle is bad for our health and our lifespan, but it can feel hard to escape."

A few ideas he shared for people to get started include an Iron Gym or the many generic alternatives that can hang in a doorway. Pull-ups, push-ups, dips, crunches -- it'll work for all of them. There's increasing credibility for fitting micro-workouts in throughout your day, and it's often easier than finding 30-60 minutes for a standard workout.

For those who hate running or don't want to wear out their knees but still want the benefits of cardio exercise, a walk with a weighted vest can increase the intensity. The same geek advisor suggests Rogue Fitness, 5.11 Tactical or TRX. For geeks with bad winters, Yaktrax lets you get traction while walking on the worst ice.

Finally, for home décor, another geek we know recommended metal wall art from Displate.

"They have a ton of different designs, including stuff that geeks ... well, geek out about," he said. "The metal posters are built to last and are super easy to hang with provided magnet strips."

Geeks on the go

With business travel resuming in earnest, consider a refresh to your geek's travel gear, from the latest noise-cancelling headphones to a magnetic phone grip that can act as a second pair of hands.

"I bought this and use it all the time," one of our geek counselors said of the phone grip. "On my stroller, on gym equipment, for travel, etc. It's been super handy." No pun intended!

[Hardware authentication keys] are cheap, come in multi-packs and can be given as gifts to help secure your family the easy way.
Geek gift advisor

Another must-have item for geeks getting back into the swing of travel is their own power strip or power bank.

"I don't have this yet, but it's on my [wishlist], because I was [upset] there were minimal power strips at KubeCon," our traveling geek said.

Another geek friend said he often gets questions from other geeks about his portable monitor. His is a Mac Thunderbolt-powered two-screen version, though many variations exist.

"You pop it into your laptop bag, and all you need to connect is one tiny thunderbolt cable that powers the screen and transmits the video," he said. "It takes up minimum extra space in your bag but gives you a two-screen setup [at a coffee shop.]"

For fun on the go, consider a retro handheld gaming gadget. Our geek friends say the Analogue Pocket is all the rage.

"I hear it's still rather hard to order/receive, but [it's] a love letter to the handhelds of yore," one geek advisor said. "The Pocket is nicely crafted and is the finest option by far in a crowded market of similar contenders."

For a mix of fun and utility, consider the Flipper Zero portable multitool.

"There are so many ways to use it and things to do with it," one of our geek friends said. "For sure it's one of those devices you will pick up, start to try things out on and suddenly wonder where the day went."

Beth Pariseau, senior news writer at TechTarget, is an award-winning veteran of IT journalism. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @PariseauTT.

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