Tip of the Week: Computers in Public Spaces

Computers in Internet cafes, public libraries and other public places constitute a great risk to security. As this news article about a library in the UK illustrates, it is fairly easy to add devices containing keystroke loggers to public computers. These devices can capture any kind of sensitive information you type into the keyboard, such as the log on information for your online accounts, applications for items such as a passport or driver’s license that contain personal information, and bank or credit card information when making online purchases. Because the keystroke logging devices can capture information despite a website’s encryption feature, they can do quite a bit of damage, leading to identity theft and fraud.

What can you do about staying safe when using unsure public computers?

  • Be aware of what is plugged into the computer’s ports and connected to the computer’s wires. Are the ports visible? If a USB device is plugged in, don’t use the computer. Also look for anything added between the keyboard’s chord and the port.
  • If the ports or wires are not visible and you need to use a public computer, don’t use it for going into any personal accounts, such as Facebook, your bank, or your email.
  • If you temporarily don’t have access to your own computer and need to use an unsure public computer for accessing a personal account, change your password using a private computer within a day of last logging into the account.
  • Do not use an unsure public computer to enter your debit or credit card information into online forms.

 

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About MIT
IT Security Awareness Consultant and Communications Specialist at MIT

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