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September 17, 2012

Computer Safety in Public

By Infrogmation of New Orleans (Photo by Information) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Last week while volunteering at the Central Queens Y in Forest Hills, I was working with a gentleman about using email. I mentioned to him the importance of signing out of his email and any other site he signed into when finished using a public computer. Five minutes later when he was done, he started to leave without signing out of the public computer he was using and I needed to remind him about the importance of doing so. Using a computer in public whether it is on a public desktop computer or a public Wi-Fi can be more secure if precautions are followed.

Hotels and libraries are two places where there may be a public computer for all to use. I will also include using a friend’s computer here as well. They are only as safe as the internet security that the computer is using. It may be a good idea to check to ascertain that the computer is secure.  As I noted previous it is important that when you are done using the computer (even if for a quick moment), you sign out of all sites that you had logged into. This includes your email and Facebook accounts.  If you forget, the person using the computer after you has access to the accounts you did not log out of. They would have the ability to send spam or perhaps post inappropriate comments on your Facebook account as you. When logging onto a site and you are prompted to save your password or if the default is “Yes”, make sure that you do not allow the computer to save your password.  Unselect the “Yes” default where applicable.  You should also make sure that no one is snooping over your shoulder in an attempt to obtain your passwords or other confidential information.  What I always do when leaving a public computer is to clear browsing data.  This includes browsing history, cookies and autofill form data.  It is another layer of security.

When you are using a public wireless network such as Starbucks or in an airport, you also should make sure that no one is snooping over your shoulder and ascertain that the computer you are accessing the Wi-Fi network has the needed security.  You also should be sure that any sharing features that you have turned on are turned off.  This would include file and printer sharing as well as network sharing as well.

Last whether using a public computer or public Wi-Fi never do banking, credit card or other financial transactions. In the event there is a keystroke logger on that public computer you are using or sniffer intercepting data over a public Wi-Fi network you do not want to put information out there that can compromise your personal information. I also would never enter any information that could be used to steal your identity.  A while back I did a blog on choosing a good password. In it I mentioned that you need to have different passwords for the sites you log into. Click on link.  Should a hacker ever get the password to a site you logged into, they realize that many people use the same passwords to log into their accounts. Having different passwords will minimize the damage.

These are a few ways to keep yourself safe while using your computer in a public Wi-Fi system or using a public computer.

If you have additional questions about computer safety or any other technology questions, I can be reached at (917) 572-3468 or email me at  

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