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Five safety tips for using a public computer

Five safety tips for using a public computer

Public computers in libraries, Internet cafes, airports, and copy shops can be safe if you follow a few simple rules when you use them.

Read these tips to help keep your work, personal, or financial information private.

  • Don't save your logon information

    Always log out of websites by clicking "log out" on the site. It's not enough to simply close the browser window or type in another address.

    Many programs (especially social networking websites, web mail, and instant messenger programs) include automatic login features that will save your user name and password. Disable this option so no one can log in as you.

  • Don't leave the computer unattended with sensitive information on the screen

    If you have to leave the public computer, log out of all programs and close all windows that might display sensitive information.

  • Erase your tracks

    Internet Explorer offers InPrivate browsing that leaves no trace of specific web activity. For more information, see Internet Explorer 9 Features: InPrivate Browsing.

    Internet Explorer also keeps a record of your passwords and every page you visit, even after you've closed them and logged out.

    Disable the feature that stores passwords

    Before you go to the web, turn off the Internet Explorer feature that "remembers" your passwords.

    1. In Internet Explorer, click Tools  Gear icon, and then click Internet Options.

    2. Click the Content tab, and then click Settings, next to AutoComplete.

    3. Click to clear the check box for User names on passwords and forms.

    Delete your temporary Internet files and your history

    When you finish your use of a public computer, you can help protect your private information by deleting your temporary Internet files. For information on how to delete temporary Internet files see Delete webpage history.

  • Watch for over-the-shoulder snoops

    When you use a public computer, be on the look out for thieves who look over your shoulder or watch as you enter sensitive passwords to collect your information.

  • Don't enter sensitive information into a public computer

    These measures provide some protection against casual hackers who use a public computer after you have.

    But keep in mind that an industrious thief might have installed sophisticated software on the public computer that records every keystroke and then emails that information back to the thief.

    Then it doesn't matter if you haven't saved your information or if you've erased your tracks. They still have access to this information.

    If you really want to be safe, avoid typing your credit card number or any other financial or otherwise sensitive information into any public computer.