A public computer is everyone's computer
A public computer can be really handy, especially when you're traveling without a laptop or tablet. However, with so many people sharing a public computer, there's a chance the device is already infected with viruses or malware, which are ready to harvest your personal data.
If you plan to only visit sites you don't need to log into, you're good to go. But otherwise, sites that require personal information, such as email or online banking, can be accessible by everyone – including hackers.
Follow these public computer safety tips to help you surf safely and confidently in hotels, airports, schools, Internet cafés, libraries… or wherever your day takes you.
- Never save your name or passwords on a public computer. If there's a "save" option for your email or a website login, make sure it's disabled.
- Make sure you log out when you're done with a site.
- Never do financial transactions, or view or exchange sensitive data such as passwords, credit card numbers and bank details through a public device - even if those websites have excellent security, encryption and digital certification.
- If possible, don't use USB drives or memory sticks. Viruses and malware are made to be easily infectious. If you need to use USB storage, make sure to insert your USB the next time you use it with your personal device, then scan your drive or stick with your anti-virus/anti-spyware software before you use it again.
- Before you log out of the computer, drop down the tools menu and delete your browsing history and cookies, and disable the auto-complete feature – this will erase any record of sites you visited and all information exchanged including passwords and log ins.
- If you're done or need to step away from the computer even for a minute, make sure you log out of the device.
- As a common sense precaution, always make sure that no one is looking over your shoulder to gain your personal data. That's true of using any device in public areas, not only public computers.
There's no need to avoid public computers completely. Just be sure you're treating it as it is – public access that is anything but private.
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