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How to Use a Public Computer Safely

Jan 22, 2017 · 3 min read

How to Use a Public Computer Safely

Although it’s becoming less common, many of us will still have to use a public computer at some time.

It could be due to an emergency situation, or perhaps you’re on vacation and the hotel you’re staying in has a public computer for guests. It’s too tempting to pass up, and so you quickly check your work email or social media accounts.

While that’s understandable, it is also quite risky. You could be putting your private, sensitive information at risk of being stolen. We’ve mentioned before how to stay safe while you’re on public wi-fi.

Here are some important things you can do use a public computer safely.

1: Delete downloaded files

If you need to download something to the computer (your flight tickets, for example), you should always make sure to delete files and empty the Recycle Bin.

Even better, you should have a USB with you for downloads. Instead of saving downloads locally on the computer, just save it on your USB.

2: Delete your browser history

Right after you’ve finished using the internet, you should delete all history, cookies, data and temporary Internet files.

The options are different for each different browser, but generally you can get there by finding the History or Privacy tabs. For Chrome, for example, click on the three dots on the upper right hand corner and select History. From there you can easily clear your browsing data. For Firefox, go to Settings, click on Privacy & Security, then choose “Clear private data.”

3: Don’t save passwords

If you need to go to a website that requires a password, don’t click on the option to save the password. Although that may be obvious, most people are so used to clicking on “Allow” or “Save password” that they don’t consider the fact that they’re on a public computer.

If you do accidentally end up saving your password on the computer, you can clear all passwords again. It is a bit more involved, but you can follow these instructions based on the browser.

4: Don’t enter highly sensitive information

This may also go without saying, but it’s easy to forget that you’re on a public computer sometimes. Nonetheless, think twice: do I really need to log into my bank account now, or my work email?

Public computers are not the best place, or a good place at all, for online shopping. Nor is it recommended to log into your work network, as not only could hackers compromise your credentials, they could also get into your work network and compromise the company’s information.

5: Restart the computer

One way to know that you’re safe is to simply restart your computer. The guy waiting in line behind you may not like it, but it will help you to know that your information is safer.

Not only will restarting clear out temporary files, but it will also clear out anything you did from the computer’s physical memory (RAM).

Related: 20 Bad Internet Behaviors – And How to Fix Them

Related: Fight Off ‘Evil Twin’ Hotspots with a VPN

These are some of the most important tips you can utilize to keep yourself safe while you’re on a public computer.

However, there’s one more general one you should always use: your common sense. If you feel that something is wrong or amiss, be extra careful. Pay attention to your surroundings and, if you find something strange, do not use the computer at all, or at least just use it lightly.

In fact, that’s exactly what you should always do on a public computer: use it lightly.

Christina Craig
Christina Craig successVerified author

Christina is a community manager and the heart, the voice and the soul of NordVPN. She is always up for a conversation with our community of users and blog readers.

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