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How to Use a Public Computer Safely

Jan 22, 2017 · 3 min read

How to Use a Public Computer Safely

Using a public computer is becoming less common. However, imagine needing to access your work emails or your social media accounts – and your laptop’s at home and your phone just died.

A public computer would be a reasonable choice, but it’s risky. Did you know that it could put your private information at risk?

Using a public computer presents similar threats as using public Wi-Fi (find out how to stay safe on public Wi-Fi). That’s why we put together a few tips that will help you protect your data and use a public computer safely.

1: Delete downloaded files

If you need to download anything to a public computer (i.e. your flight tickets or your booking confirmations), always make sure to delete these files and empty the Recycle Bin.

It’s even better to use memory stick for your files. Instead of saving downloads on the computer, just save them on your USB.

2: Delete your browser history

Right after you’ve finished browsing, delete all of your history, cookies, and temporary Internet files.

Usually, you can do this by clicking ‘History’ or ‘Privacy’ tabs on your browser. If you’re using Chrome, click on the three-dash icon on the upper right-hand corner and select ‘History’. From here, it’s easy to clear your browsing data. For Firefox, go to ‘Settings’, click on ‘Privacy & Security’, and then choose ‘Clear private data’.

3: Don’t save passwords

If you need to access a website that requires your login details and/or your password, never click ‘remember me’ or ‘save password’. This might seem obvious, but most people are so used to clicking these buttons that they automatically do so on public computers.

If you do accidentally end up saving your password, don’t panic. You can delete this information too. It is a bit more complicated, but if you ever need to, follow these instructions.

4: Don’t enter highly sensitive information

A public computer is not the best place to check your bank account or shop online, nor should you use it with your work network. Not only could hackers compromise your credentials, they could also get into your work network and access your company’s information.

The same goes for sensitive personal data, like bank account logins or anything that requires your government ID information.

5: Restart the computer

One way to make sure that your private information is safe is to restart your computer when you’re done with it. The next guy in line may not like it, but it might save you from a massive headache.

Restarting your computer will not only clear out temporary files, it will also clear the public computer’s physical memory (RAM).

6: Apply the same security rules as you would at home

Just because you are using a public computer doesn’t mean that you should use the internet carelessly. You should still avoid accessing unknown websites or downloading suspicious files. (If you are unsure how to avoid bad internet behaviors or how to fix them, check out this post)

7: Don’t forget to sign out

You would be surprised to see how many people forget to sign out of their accounts. Make sure you don’t , because the next person to use the computer might accidentally open your account. Don’t leave your data in the hands of a stranger.

8: Watch your surroundings

Watch what’s happening around you. Pay attention. Is someone looking over your shoulder? How about security cameras? Someone might be snooping over you in the physical world and collecting your data.

9: Use your common sense

Lastly, you should always use your common sense. Keep an eye out for things that might feel odd. For example, if your connection speed suddenly drops, that might mean that someone is leaking your data. If in doubt, it’s better to disconnect the internet, or at least to avoid visiting websites that ask for your personal information.


Emily Green
Emily Green successVerified author

Emily Green is a content writer who loves to investigate the latest internet privacy and security news. She thrives on looking for solutions to problems and sharing her knowledge with NordVPN readers and customers.


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