As popular and widespread as laptop computers are, sometimes you don’t always have access to it, or the battery is dead, and you’re forced to use a public computer. Public computers are most often seen in public libraries and internet cafes. While it’s a great convenience to have access to these computers, there are some safety issues you should be aware of when you use a public computer.
The following are some computer safety tips you can use to protect yourself.
- Avoid logging in to sensitive websites. Do you really need to login to your bank to check your account balance on a public computer? Probably not. Likewise, it’s probably not a good time to surf Amazon for the latest deals and make a bunch of purchases either. You don’t know if the computer you’re on has been compromised in any way. Keylogger programs are easy to install and can give hackers all of your login information, including passwords, literally as you type it.
- Consider using a VPN. A VPN is a virtual private network that will route your connection through a network of secure servers. This means that instead of the data packets from your internet browsing going through the wireless network at the library or cafe, those packets are encrypted and go through a secure connection, making it impossible for anyone sniffing around the public network to sniff out your passwords and other sensitive information. There are a lot of VPN services, some are free and some paid. Shop around for the one that suits your needs the best.
- Don’t save login information. If you do need to login to a website, whether it’s a social media website or a forum you frequent, make sure none of your login information is saved. Most login pages have an option to “remember this username/password.” Make sure that the box is left unchecked. If it is checked and you leave the computer, the next person who comes along can login to whatever site you were on without having to try entering in your password.
- Clear your browser history. Once you’re done with the public computer, clear your browser history. Get rid of everything. Delete all the cookies, clear the cache and filled form data. Any of those things can be used to find out more information about you, and even hack into your email accounts. By erasing all of your browsing data, you’re wiping yourself from the computer so it’s like you weren’t even there.
- Never leave the computer unattended while you’re still using it. This is even more true if you’re logged into your email or other accounts with sensitive information. If you need to leave your computer, close everything out, wipe your browsing history, and then leave. It’s a pain, especially if you’re just going to the bathroom, but it still beats having your accounts compromised.
These computer safety tips will help you keep your information private while on a public computer. If you’re on public wifi, you should take similar steps to protect yourself.