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How to use public computers safely

Whether you’re on vacation or you are just a college student, there are lots of reasons for using public computers. In these situations, safety isn’t usually the first thing on our minds. In the small amount of time you are accessing the internet though, there should be certain things on your mind. There are so many stories of people unethically acquiring personally information from publicly used computers. Don’t be scare though, I have you covered! Read on.

What is at risk?
Your log in information to the websites you frequently visit are valuable to others. Even if it’s just someone getting your Facebook password and posting an embarrassing status, it’s still not funny. But what if someone got the password to a financial website that you use, like a bank or stock trading website? You certainly would not want anyone checking out your banking information or trading stocks for you. If someone were to get the log in information to your email they could read every saved email you have ever sent or received. They can even compose emails from you to anyone they wish. Things like this have ruined the careers of movie stars, athletes, and politicians by bringing questionable, but private material to the surface. Even if you don’t have anything to hide, chances are you still have something in your email that you’d rather not share with the world.

Now, let’s say you don’t vacation often or use the library computer. Let’s say you don’t hang out at the coffee shop and write novels. What if you’re at your buddies house and need to log in to your account to check on something? Your friend has other friends who may not be friends of yours. Even if they just get a kick out of feeling like a ‘hacker’ and don’t mean any harm, maybe they are just nosy, you still don’t want them tracking everything you do. Do you?

How to avoid potential trouble

Now that I have probably done nothing but scare you, here is some actual useful information on what you can do to protect yourself:

1.) Log Off Before You Walk Away

It seems so simple right? But seriously, if you get up to do anything for any length of time, you should make sure that you have logged out of all accounts. You have to remember that clicking the X in the top right corner may close the page, but does NOT necessarily log you out. Neither does leaving the page to visit another page. Always remember that.

2.) Do Not Use Automatic Log in.
Most banks or any money related sites will automatically log you out after a certain amount of time spent inactive. But either way you should still actually log off before you close the browser, or at least hit the log off button for good measure. What you also may not have noticed before is that many websites offer automatic log in for your convenience. It’s a little box that pops up when you log in, and for lots of people it is simply a reflex to hit the “Yes” button. But keep in mind that if you do that, anyone who uses that computer after you will not have to even know your username or password, it will already be filled in for them.

3.) Destroy All Evidence That You Were Ever There.
Automatic log in is tempting, and sometimes an accident. If you do end up having to use it, remember to cover your tracks. You should always make sure that no matter what browser you are using, always delete the cookies, temporary internet files, and recent history. You can also use Private Browsing in most cases.

4.) Look Over Your Shoulder
It may look stupid and it might make you feel stupid. But lets face it, it’s a crazy world we live in and anything is possible. If someone is really wants your information bad enough to look over your shoulder, it would be a shame to let them get away with your information THAT easily. If you do in fact catch someone peeking, here is a good little trick: Windows Key + D. Pressing that button combination will minimize every window on your screen. Then you can shoot the person dirty looks or call them names and know that your information is safe!

I must admit that I don’t always take my own advice on these things. But we should all train ourselves to be more careful in these situations. You hear stories about identity theft on the news every day, these things do in fact happen. We should always try to avoid being a victim by not letting ourselves be in vulnerable situations. I hope this article helps! Thanks for reading it.

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