5 Safety Tips when Using a Public Computer

by GOsafeonline | 11 March 2011

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

Use these tips to help keep your work, and personal or financial information private:

  • Don't save your login 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-based email, and instant messaging systems) include automatic login features that will save your user name and password. Disable this option so no one can log in as you after you have finished using the computer.

  • 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 9 offers InPrivate browsing that leaves no trace of specific web activity. If you do not choose InPrivate browsing, Internet Explorer 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 start surfing the web, turn off the Internet Explorer feature that ‘remembers’ your passwords.
    1. In Internet Explorer, click “Tools”, and then click "Internet Options".
    2. Click the "Content" tab, and then click "Settings", next to "AutoComplete".
    3. Click to clear both check boxes having to do with passwords.


  • Delete your temporary Internet files and your history

    When you finish using a public computer, you can help protect your private information by deleting your temporary Internet files.

  • Watch out for over-the-shoulder snoops.

    When you use a public computer, be on the look out for thieves who look over your shoulder or stand particularly close to you in order to take note of your sensitive information (such as passwords) as you enter them on the computer.

  • Don't enter sensitive information into a public computer.

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

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

    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 entering any sensitive information into any public computer, especially your credit card number or any other personal or financial details.