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Public Computers Safety Tips: Interview with Cybersecurity Expert Ravi Bahethi

Originally published on hackernoon.com

With the amazing advances in cloud computing, many of us are finding that it is efficient to use a public or shared computer from time to time to check in on work and personal projects. Staying safe on a public computer is essential in keeping your data secure from cybercriminals. In this article, systems engineer and cybersecurity specialist Ravi Bahethi focuses on five tips to help you stay safe while using public computers.

1. Do Not Save Your Login Or Any Other Information

When you log on to any of your online accounts on your home or work computer, you probably never think about entering your login information. This is because most websites and applications that you regularly visit on your private computer have saved your login credentials. When you are on a public or shared computer, you are prompted to enter your credentials. Many web browsers will ask you if you want to save your login information on that machine. Always click "no" or "never" when given this prompt.

When you are finished using any web page or application, be sure that you log out of your account page before closing the web browser.

2. Clear All Browser History When You Finish

Public computers are attractive to thieves and generally creepy people, in that they can snoop around after you have left to see what sensitive information they can find. In addition to avoiding saving any of your login information, you should completely delete and clean the history from the web browser that you have used. You should take steps to understand the available privacy settings on the web browser that you use and then delete everything that the browser allows.

Delete browsing history, cookies, cache data, and any forms that input information. Additionally, many of the popular browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Edge)  have a “Private” option or “Incognito Mode”. This should be used when on a public computer and will not save your browsing history, cookies, and other personal information.

3. If You Must Access Secure Accounts On a Public Computer, Change Your Passwords Later

While it is best only to use a secure and private home or work computer to access personal or financial accounts, under certain circumstances, you may have to use a public or shared machine. Even though you will take care never to save any login information to a public computer and delete all of your browsing histories, there is always the risk of malware or other exploits designed to capture sensitive information.

When you use a shared computer, keep a note of which accounts you access on that machine. Then when you are back on your private computer, update the accounts you have used with a new password. 

4. Never Enter Personal Or Sensitive Information On a Public Computer

We've covered how to keep your login information secure, now let's discuss your personal information. You should never use a public or shared computer to input your full name, birthdate, social security number, account numbers, or any other sensitive and personal information. As we discussed, some hackers and thieves attempt to install software on computers that will record keystrokes and send them to the bad actor.

No matter how careful you are when using a public machine, you cannot be sure that someone else is not observing the information you type into web forms. If possible, create a Virtual Private Network (VPN) tunnel to your personal computer and use it to do your work.

5. Keep An Eye On Your Surroundings

Places where public computers are used are attractive to thieves. Use common sense in looking out for anyone peeking around and over your shoulder when you are using a public machine. Trained thieves can easily pick up keystrokes and on-screen information. Also, keep any personal papers you bring with you to the computer secure. Don't be an easy target for someone who might take personal information from the computer screen or your documents if you step away from the computer even for a moment.

About Ravi BahethiRavi Bahethi is a systems engineer and programmer with a strong interest in all things technological. He works hard to provide his clients with customizable and cost-effective solutions and protections against cyber attacks and other threats. When he is not busy managing Maryland-based company Terranet Inc., Ravi enjoys taking long walks and playing tennis.

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