Beware of Public Computers!

September 11, 2014 | By K. Joseph Breheny

Anonymous_Carnegie_Library_building

I was working overtime on a weekend from home earlier this year, but my PC was not functioning properly. So, I had to go to a local library to user their computers When I sat down at a computer, I noticed that a previous user had not signed out of their yahoo mail account and I was looking at the contents of the other person’s inbox! Since this incident, I have become very conscience of just how careless people are with email accounts and access to their own computers when in a public case. I’ve noticed this issue on a variety of public locations where people use computers including hotels, cafes and libraries. I’ve even seen people leave their laptops unattended in a shopping mall.

In July, the US Secret Service warned that hotels that they should inspect computer that they make available to guests in public areas for keylogger programs that can capture user entries. They stated that “It’s a leap of faith to log into public computers”.

During an investigation of counterfeit credit cards at hotels in Texas, they found that the perpetrators were found to have used public computers at the hotel and installed keylogger programs. This gave the hackers a large amount of information about guests, including login credentials, personal information on e-mail accounts, and other sensitive data.

Treating public computers like home computers and ignoring the threat of hackers is a serious mistake that can lead to disaster. Even without the kind of infiltration in the hotel case, there is variety of way that a public computer or any computer can be compromised. Computers can be accessed and infected through email attachments, web pages and so on. However, a public computer is an inviting target for fraudsters because one successful infection could allow them to victimize many users.

A few thoughts on security:

  • Be aware that  the public computer that you are using could be compromised
  • While forwarding your e-mail on a public computers, use a disposable e-mail account, such as Mailinator or Trashmail that has a short life and expires after a particular time frame
  • To carry out file download, choose a sharable option by link, and send that link to disposable e-mail address, hence the files can be accessed from that link

The bottom line is try not to use personal login credentials when you using a public computer

antivirus

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