Stay merry by avoiding the “12 Scams of Christmas”

christmas-story

With office parties, present buying and general merriment – ’tis the season to be jolly. However, with all the pressures and distractions of Christmas, it’s the time of year that cyber criminals like to strike. It’s also the time when we get bombarded by announcements of minor product revisions, solely aimed at trying grab the attention of Christmas shoppers. However, while trawling through our inbox, I found an interesting press release from the folks at McAfee regarding the “12 scams of Christmas”.

Their aim is to educate the public on the most common online scams used during the festive season and, of course, to remind us that they produce software to combat this sort of thing. Last year McAfee saw mobile threats for Android go over the 900,000 mark in the lead up to Christmas, before dropping by 50% in the first few months of the year. The company believes this trend will continue this Christmas, with the amount of mobile-specific threats likely to peak to even higher numbers. In addition, the first week of December sees cyber criminals open ‘the spam floodgates’ luring online shoppers with promises of amazing deals, false delivery notifications, personalised season’s greetings cards, credit card offers and more.

So, without further ado, behold the “12 Scams of Christmas”:

  1. Not-So-Merry Mobile Apps: Official-looking software for Christmas shopping, including those that feature celebrity or company endorsements, could be malicious, designed to steal or send out your personal data.
  2. Holiday Mobile SMS Scams: A widespread piece of malicious code known as FakeInstaller, tricks Android users into thinking it is a legitimate installer for an application and then quickly takes advantage of the unrestricted access to smartphones, sending SMS messages to premium rate numbers without the user’s consent.
  3. Hot Holiday Gift Scams: Ads that offer deals on must-have items that might be too good to be true. Clever crooks will post dangerous links and phony contests on social media sites to entice viewers to reveal personal information or download malware onto their devices.
  4. Seasonal Travel Scams: Phony travel deal links and notifications are common, as are hackers waiting to steal your identity upon arrival. Around 1,000 holiday scams took place in Britain last year, costing holidaymakers more than £1.5million, according to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).
  5. Dangerous E-Cards: Legitimate-looking e-cards wishing friends “Season’s Greetings” can cause unsuspecting users to download “Merry Malware” such as a Trojan or other virus after clicking a link or opening an attachment. (Ed: Our tip is to only open cards from people you know).
  6. Deceptive Online Games: Before your kids are glued to their newly downloaded games, be wary of the games’ sources. Many sites offering full-version downloads of Grand Theft Auto, for example, are often fake and laden with malware, and integrated social media pages can expose gamers, too.
  7. Shipping Notifications Shams: Phony shipping notifications can appear to be from a mailing service alerting you to an update on your shipment, when in reality, they are scams carrying malware and other harmful software designed to infect your computer or device. With an estimated 20,000 click-and-collect points across the UK this Christmas and increasingly flexible delivery options, consumers should be on guard against cyber crooks capitalising on delivery notification.
  8. Bogus Gift Cards: An easy go-to gift for the holidays, gift cards can be promoted via deceptive ads, especially on Facebook, Twitter, or other social sites, that claim to offer exclusive deals on gift cards or packages of cards and can lead consumers to purchase phony ones online.
  9. Holiday SMiShing: During the holidays, SMiShing is commonly seen in gift card messages, where scammers pose as banks or credit card companies asking you to confirm information for “security purposes”.
  10. Fake Charities: Donating to charities is common this time of year for many looking to help the less fortunate. However, cyber criminals capitalise on this generosity, especially during natural disaster events, and set up fake charity sites and pocket the donations.
  11. Romance Scams: It can be difficult to know exactly who the person is behind the screen. Many messages sent from an online friend can include phishing scams, where the person accesses your personal information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details.
  12. Phony E-Tailers: The convenience of online shopping does not go unnoticed by cyber scrooges. With so many people planning to shop online, scammers set up phony e-commerce sites to steal your money and personal data.

McAfee have also issued some general guidance for a scam-free festive season. First up is to ensure you review mobile apps carefully before downloading. Be aware, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Purchase directly from the official retailer rather than from third parties online. Ensure that you’re doing your research before sharing personal details with an organisation you’re not familiar with. Banking and credit card companies should never ask you for personal information via text message.

If you’re lucky enough to go away this Christmas then, before travelling, make sure that all of your software is up-to-date and run a virus scan. If you’re asked for a username and password after clicking a link, try using a fake input on the first login attempt. The extra few seconds it takes to load confirms that the page is actually looking for valid username/password combinations; scam sites will let you right in.

Image courtesy of felixsanch

 

5 Christmas apps to help the festive season go smoothly

christmas-apps

It’s less than a month now and we can’t help feel a glimmer of excitement that Christmas is on its way. Each year we say to ourselves, “I’m going to start planning Christmas earlier this year,” but before we know it, it’s mid-December and we’ve not even bought one present. With the advances in technology planning Christmas couldn’t be easier and with the assistance of a few simple apps we’ve no excuse for leaving it all to the last minute.

Take a look at the following five best Christmas planning apps:

Santa’s Bag – Christmas Gift List

With a countdown timer, Facebook and contacts import for recipients, customised emails, wish lists, planning lists, shopping, individual gifts and much more all wrapped up in an fun and easy-to-use app, Santa’s Bag – Christmas Gift List could certainly help alleviate some of the stress from Christmas planning.

Setting budgets, keeping track of your spending and being ultra-organised this year is available for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users. – What’s more, Santa’s Bag is free.

No More Socks: The Christmas List Genius

“The only gift list app to score 5 out of 5 on Macworld,” iTunes’ proudly states – If Macworld’s anything to go by. Though with a string of complimentary user remarks related to the “awesomeness”, “uniqueness” and “beautiful design” of No More Socks, this “best app in the world” certainly seems to be ticking the right boxes.

So what exactly does it do?

Users can store and organise gift ideas all year round, locate and bookmark gifts online, shop, share ideas, get inspired and set up birthday reminders.

Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPd touch the No More Socks: The Christmas List Genius app is free to download.

The Salvation Army Christmas Music

So Christmas planning isn’t confined to presents and shopping and for many households music takes centre stage throughout the festivities.  The Salvation Army Christmas Music provides you with a great variety of Christmas music, including the oldies, classical, hymns, instrumental, children’s, soul/jazz, around the world and the Salvation Army brass Christmas.

Without having to sieve through the CDs locating the Christmas favourites or spending hours downloading all the Xmas classics, this app could certainly simplify the music and entertainment aspect of Christmas planning.

Stream festive music onto your iPhone or iPod Touch for £1.99 – all proceeds go to the Salvation Army.

Santa’s Christmas Village

Christmas planning is all about getting into the festive spirit and if the adverts, lights and shops laden with Xmas items aren’t making you feel Christmassy then call upon Santa’s Christmas Village. With 17 fun activities, seasonal pictures and festive songs, all the family can have hours of fun with this creative festive app. And when the kids are entertained, Mum and Dad can get on with writing Christmas cards, wrapping the presents and preparing the turkey.

Santa’s Christmas Village is available for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users and costs £1.49.

Sleeps to Christmas Lite – Christmas Countdown

Christmas is a whole lot easier to plan when you know exactly how long you’ve got to go. OK so different animated Christmas characters holding signs that count down the nights, hours, minutes and seconds until Christmas Day might prove a little annoying and send you into panic about what you’ve got left to do but at least the kids will love it – They can even shake your iPhone or iPod touch to make a sleigh bell noise!

Download the Sleeps to Christmas Lite – Christmas Countdown for free.

 

Christmas Stocking Fillers for under £15

Looking for that little gift for someone, or an extra to go in a stocking? Here’s a few ideas that won’t break the bank…

smartpen-iPad

Anyone addicted to their iPad, smartphone or Kindle will like this SMARTball from Stabilo, which doubles up as a stylus. A neat idea for £10.49 from Amazon and stationers.

zip-ears-lg

Getting tangled up in your earphone wires is a hazard many of us face, especially if we’re struggling in a crowded train to sort out hats, scarves, bags and whatever on the daily commute. That’s why these neat Thumbs Up zip earphones are such a clever idea. They zip up as far as you want them to, so that the wires won’t get caught up in your coat, pockets, or with other people! You can also unzip them if you want to share music with a friend, They come in black, red and pink, include two sizes of silicone ear tip and cost £12.99 from Thumbs Up

iPhone-cases

Here’s something for parents of young children – the Toddler B-Lock Case is a stylish cover that cleverly protects your iPhone from being tampered with by inquisitive fingers.  Designed by an Australian dad, the B-Lock simply clips on within seconds and comes in a range of colours including stylish black and white. The B-Lock can stay on your phone whether you are at work or play. A simple click of the case will protect the Home Button should you pass your precious phone to someone small for a few minutes to keep them entertained.

Used in conjunction with the free Toddler App, also available from The Toddler Design Company, children can watch cartoons and other Apps. They can also scroll through their photos and videos but won’t be able to delete them or send anything unknowingly.

The Toddler B-Lock Case is available through www.TheToddlerApp.com at £9.35 plus postage.

Romeo-and-Juliet

You could treat a friend or family member to some apps for Christmas. For students or anyone who enjoys classic literature, how about the Explore Shakespeare apps from Cambridge University Press, which let you read, listen and interact with the characters and text. Cambridge University Press’s definitive versions of the text have been reimagined for iPad, with illuminating visuals, helpful commentary and a compelling audio performance. The first two apps cover Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth and they cost £9.99 each from the App Store.

flo

Getting ready for a Christmas party after work is fun, but who wants to cart round a big bottle of perfume to squirt on at the end of the day. That’s why this clever gadget has been devised – it attached to all perfume bottles so that you can take your favourite scent with you wherever you go – great for taking on holiday too. The Flo is a neat little 4.7ml atomiser that comes in glossy silver, black or pink. It costs £9.99 from Boots and John Lewis.

Last-minute kids’ Christmas gadgets

Is Santa still looking for a few treats for the children/teens in your family?

Here are a few neat ideas that should put you in the favourite uncle/auntie category well into the New Year (which means you get first dibs on their Christmas sweet stash!)

ruckjack

If you’re buying for children aged around five to seven, and they have access to a computer, it’s very likely they will be Moshi Monster fans. In which case, this Ruckjack could be right up their street. Is it a rucksack, is it a jacket? It’s both – and they can even go online and create their own design, choosing colours and finishes. You don’t have to have the Moshi Monster lining of course, but what little Monster fan would deny themselves?  And if you have a child who hates wearing a coat, they can slip it off, turn it into a rucksack, and pop it onto their back while they scoot/cycle home.

The Ruckjack comes in sizes 3-12, costs £29.99 and can be ordered from www.miioon.com

Blue-Bird-Mini

Angry Birds fans can bring their favourite furious feathered friends from the screen to real life with one of these Angry Birds Speakers from Gear4.

The ever-raging Red Bird Space, Blue Bird, Black Bomber Bird, Red Bird and explosive Lazer Bird all work with any smartphone, music player, or tablet and have a 3.5mm headphone jack. The speakers feature expandable bass twist function for stronger audio quality and are able to link with multiple speakers, so you could have a string of your favourite birds blasting out your top tunes.

The lithium battery can be charged for two hours to give eight hours of playback.

Priced between £29.99 and £34.99 from www.gear4.com

Penguin-Speaker

More avian-themed speakers are available from Kitsound – this time in the shape of a less angry-looking penguin or cute owl speaker. These speakers will plug into a smartphone, MP3 player or tablet and come in a bundle of three products – headphone, phone sock and speaker for £14.95 from www.phones4u.co.uk

Need to make that homework more appealing? How about treating them to a fun coloured wireless mouse – just for them? Might be just the incentive they need to get down to work. The Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 comes in red, pink or blue as well as glossy black or white and the makers claim it will work on any surface – so the bedroom carpet should be fine! It is designed to be used by left- and right-handers and has rubber side grips for better handling. The mouse costs £29.99, for more details log on to www.microsoft.com/hardware.

Finally, we all know dogs are not just for Christmas, but here’s one pet that won’t need walking, feeding or taking to the vets.

Tech-Pet-Kids

Just put your iPhone or iPod touch into the TechPet body and watch it transform into a friendly pet dog robot! It will move just by hearing your voice or seeing your hand waving, you can play games and music on it and it will even play with other TechPets.

In sitting mode, the TechPet can be used as a music player; put it in trick mode to teach it new tricks, and you can even customize its face – use your own pictures as TechPet’s face via ‘Face Morph’ if you want!

The TechPet is £59.99 from Toys R Us, John Lewis, Argos, Amazon, and The Entertainer. For more details head to www.facebook.com/BandaiUK

Top Five Christmas Gifts for music makers

Whether tinkling the ivories or keeping it real on the wheels of steel, music is a wonderful pastime and if there’s that special someone in your life who is that way inclined then we have some gadgets on hand that are going for a song.

Impaktor

Impacktor – the Drum Synthesizer
From app developers Beep Street, Impacktor is a one of those apps that makes you revel the fact that we live in the future. The cheapest item on the list, I still find it one of the most impressive. Impacktor takes table drumming antics and reinterprets the vibrations into actual sounds. Virtually any surface becomes a playable percussion instrument. It doesn’t just do drum sounds and is capable of all sort of electronic industrial sounds. There’s even a 6-track audio recorder built in so you can layer some beats and export it to the DAW of your choice.

£2.99 from the App Store

iRig-Mix

iRig Mix
Staying near the app theme, is IK Multimedia’s app-cessory, the iRig Mix. The iRig range is dedicated to enhancing the music making capabilities of your iDevices – they have microphones, keyboards and stompboxes. The iRig Mix is a lightweight and portable DJ mixer that allows you to have party in your pocket. You can mix off just one iOS device but for maximum fun you can throw in a couple of other devices and crab scratch your way to glory. You can even route microphones or guitars through the thing.

€74.99 (ex. tax) from electronic and music retailers around the world

EB50-christmas

EB-50 In-Ear Monitors
Unlike conventional speakers, monitors are essential for musicians and you need audio fidelity – to trust that what you are hearing is what you are playing – and then to tweak accordingly. The build-quality of the EB-50s is phenomenal and they’re great for recording, mixing and mastering. The drivers use neodymium magnets for greater sound definition, which are encased in a multi-layer, anti-resonant material to eradicate any of the internal vibrations that leads to distortion in lesser designs. These are then housed in a non-resonant military-spec aluminium body.

The Musical Fidelity EB-50 in-ear monitors are available in the UK now with the SRP of £149.99 but I’ve seen then online for less. For further details, go to www.musicalfidelity.com

Korg-KAOSSILATOR-2

Korg KAOSSILATOR 2
The KAOSSILATOR 2 is a mini synthesizer with an intuitive touchpad.Ever so slightly bigger than a mobile phone, the new battery powered synthesizer comes with an enhanced sound generator that lets you create synth and drum combinations across a range of genres, from R’n’B to D’n’B. There are 150 sounds built-in and you can of course make many more all by rubbing and tapping – which adds a fun new dimension to how you make music.

KAOSSILATOR 2 is out now with a RRP of £155.99 For more information head to www.kaoss.co.uk

VoiceLive-Play

TC Helicon VoiceLive Play
Maybe my favourite thing of the list the TC Helicon lets your inner diva shine with its super sophisticated vocal processing FX. There are 200+ presets loaded and it’s infinitely tweakable so you can customise to your heart’s content. You can also hook it up via USB to your computer so it works directly with most DAWs. There’s even some built in looping (especially when using it with the MP-75 mic) so you can start a Reggie Watts or Hyperpotamus tribute act.

The VoicePlay Live is available from www.absolutemusic.co.uk for £209.

Christmas gifts for movie fans

Okay, so maybe you didn’t stretch to splashing out for James’ Bond’s Honda CRF250R motorbike from the Skyfall movie – you’d have needed £101,400 to win it on the eBay auction that raised funds for BBC Children in Need.

But here are a few other movie-inspired gadgets that should keep the film fans among your friends and family happy this Christmas.

xperia-t

Bond’s phone in that movie was of course the Sony Xperia T, with its 4.6in touchscreen, powered by Sony’s Bravia technology, along with a 13-megapixel camera. The phone also has Walkman and xLOUD technology for listening to your favourite tunes and is Playstation certified for games fans.
From £399, more at Sony Mobile.

The Force will definitely be with Santa this Christmas, as there’s a whole host of treats for Star Wars fans.

Remote-Control-r2D2

Who knew you could live without an Inflatable R2D2, for instance? Bring your favourite droid to life with the aid of a foot pump. The remote controlled inflatable R2D2 also self-corrects if it falls over.
Inflatable R2D2, £49.99 from Find Me A Gift.

Star-Wars-Alarm-Clock

Now you Can throw things at the walls, as part of your Jedi Training. This Star Wars Alarm Clock, which has been designed to look like a Jedi Training Remote costs £19.99 and can only be switched off is you throw it against the wall!

Spiderman-Glove

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can – and now you can too – well okay, you probably won’t go swinging from building to building and fighting crime, but you can shoot webs with the Hasbro Amazing Spider-Man Mega Blaster Web Shooter With Glove.

SpiderMan-Glove-kit

The web shooter has been reinvented based on the latest costume and web shooters from the upcoming film, The Amazing Spider-Man. For the first time, Spider-Man will have mechanical web shooters in the movie and this Christmas you can play along with this glove and shooter combo, which shoots a fun ‘web’ string. Toys R Us, £22.99

R2D2-money-bank

Keep your savings out of harm’s way by hiding them in this R2D2-shaped money box, which can only be opened with a secret four-digit code. It features sound and light effects and a free app can be downloaded onto your Phone to really get the best out of the device. The moneybox costs £29.99 from Find Me A Gift.

Great Christmas kitchen gadgets gifts

Food and sex are almost universal drives for human beings so I thought I’d round up kitchen gadgets gifts for Yuletide. For the food obsessed obvious.

Monster-Knife

Monster knife set
I don’t normally demand that my kitchen utensils be ridiculously cute but the Monster knife set from Red 5 can’t help but be adorable. What is more, form belies function and knifes are actually pretty good and the set contains five high quality, precision-finished kitchen knives, made of Molybdenum and Vanadium stainless steel,

Gorenje-HomeCHEF

Gorenje Microwave
We love anything with wifi built-in (Philip’s wireless lightbulbs were amazing) or a touchscreen. Gorenje have brought fingertip magic to the kitchen with this Gorenje HomeCHEF, a built-in oven with full-colour touchscreen. The SIMPLEbake system offers photo realistic images and pre-set programming. You do the pointing, HomeCHEF does the settings, temperature and duration. It’s at the pricer end of kitchen gifts at £1199

HomeCook

Philips Home Cooker
Not to over simplify but the Philip’s Home Cooker is basically a magical cooking robot. The built-in Autostir technology means you can set things going and simply walk away, returning to a dish that has been stirred, melted, simmered, stewed, boiled, steamed, friend and sautéd. Hopefully not all at the same time. You can ever get an attachment that handles all the cutting for you. Delightful and £250.

Panasonic-Toaster-LG

Panasonic Toasters
We had a look at Panasonic’s stylish new range of kettles, toasters and coffee makers a little earlier in the year and their NT-ZP1 / NT-DP1 Toasters really stood out. I was sent a couple to play with and ate a week’s worth in bread as I was having so much fun playing with the precision browning and pop up croissant rack. I don’t get out much. The styling really does make your kitchen look better (or mine at least) and the countdown to toast function is nothing short of classy. The NT-ZP1 is £119.99 from Panasonic.

saeco-xsmall

Philips Saeco Xsmall Class Black
A great way to get coffee crankin’ through your sys is this custom espresso maker from Philips. Not as fancy as some of the other Saeco range (I played with the Philips Saeco Xelsis which has a built-in fingerprint scanner) Xsmall is a more affordable machine, albeit one with adjustable ceramic grinders and a pannarello to let things get seriously frothy.
Yours for about £350

Fun and Educational Gadgets

If you’re loath to fill your house with a load of plastic tat that either gets broken or ignored come Boxing Day, or want to win brownie points with parents, chose a gift that has some educational value. Here are a few to choose from…

Leapfrog

LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer

This appears on just about must-have toy list this Christmas. The LeapPad Explorer builds on the success of 2010’s award winning handheld; Leapster Explorer. And if you know a small person who has been hankering after your iPad, this might do the trick, as the LeapPad Explorer combines the latest technology, educational content and entertainment features, specially tailored for young learners with a robust and durable design.

Onboard are 100-plus learning games, videos, e-Books, flash cards and more, featuring children’s favourite characters. Fully compatible with the existing Leapster Explorer library

Parents will be pleased to see subjects from spelling and maths to creativity, science, music, geography and more included. The nifty stylus also lets children perfect their writing skills

This is also the first tablet device for children with a built-in camera, video recorder, microphone and animation studio, allowing for creative exploration that can be shared with family and friends

It also automatically adjusts the learning across all 100+ experiences so children can learn at their own pace

The Explorer comes in green and pink.

Price: £79.95

From: www.leapfrogstore.co.uk

Huddlestones

Huddlestone’s Classic Learning Alphabet Flash Cards

Huddlestone’s ABC flash cards are a set of beautifully hand drawn alphabet cards designed to appeal to iPhone and iPad users who want something a bit different for their children or grandchildren. This simple but elegant interactive application delivers a nostalgic approach to the flash card game, with beautifully illustrated, vintage-style cards, which feature phonics for each letter and audio for each picture. Perfect for a bit of quiet time after all the chocolate and excitement!

Price: £1.49

From: iTunes

Magellan-GEO-caching

Magellan eXplorist 310: Geocaching device

Geocaching is a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game, where players try to find hidden containers, using GPS-enabled devices, then share their experiences online. It’s rather like a technological version of letterboxing, if you are familiar with that.

Geocaching is great for children (it’s popular with Scouts and other youth groups), as it gets them out and about, and learning all kinds of skills, such as exploration and navigation. The waterproof boxes that are hidden usually contain a logbook, sometimes a stamp to record your find, as well as small toys and trinkets for trading and swapping.

Global GPS brand Magellan has just launched the eXplorist 310, a high quality hand-held GPS device which combines high-sensitivity GPS, an intuitive user interface and easy-to-read mapping.

Whether hiking, climbing, backpacking, geocaching, hunting, fishing, mountain biking or sailing, the eXplorist 310 has been designed to allow adventurers to navigate to outdoor destinations worldwide, capture geotagged photos along the way and share their experiences online when they return home.

As the younger brother of the 510, 610 and 710, the eXplorist 310 is set at a lower price point, enabling all outdoor enthusiasts to make the most of this advanced GPS device.  A good opportunity to make that family walk on Boxing Day that bit more interesting.

Price: £179.99

From: www.magellan.gps.com for stockists

Laser Pegs

If your child enjoys constructing models with Lego, Meccano and so on, they’re going to love Laser Pegs. It has already taken the US toy market by storm and has now launched in the UK. This is a lighted construction set where each piece feeds the next piece a low voltage current which, when attached to a power source, allows children to build creations that illuminate in a brightly coloured, LED light display.

There are five kits  – Dune Buggy (31 pieces), Tractor (30 pieces) and Mini Monster Bug (36 pieces) each have a power unit, an instruction booklet and sample model designs, each can be used to create over 9 different models. They cost £27.99. The Laser Pegs 3 in 1 Kit has 72 pieces, one power unit, an instruction booklet and sample model designs and Laser Pegs 4 in 1 Kit, has 60 pieces, two power units and an instruction booklet, also with model examples. They each cost £49.99.

Model building ideas can be downloaded from the websites at www.laserpegs.com and www.laserpegs.co.uk

Suitable for children aged 5 and older, Laser Pegs run on three AA batteries or a separately available AC wall adapter.

Price: From £27.99

From: www.laserpegs.co.uk

KidsBoat

6-In-1 Solar Kit

Find out all about Solar Power and create some cool models at the same time. This 6 in 1 Solar Kit is the perfect way to get a proper to introduction solar energy and just how it all works. It comes with everything you need to build your very own solar powered robot, a dog, a car, and a boat, with three other designs also possible.

Great for budding engineers or scientists.

Price: £12.95

From: www.gadgets.co.uk