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Written by Ebenezer Iledun, Information Security Architect, Technology, Informatics & Analytics

This monthly story series from Information Security aims to build awareness of existing cyber security threats and provide tips on how you can avoid them. This month’s topic: Using public computers.

Public computers pose extra risk in that they are typically used by a variety of individuals and are usually located in open spaces. That said, many of us rely on the convenience of public computers from time-to-time for personal and/or work-related tasks. Here are some tips to help you protect your privacy when working on a public computer.

Delete your browsing history

Web browsers (e.g. Internet Explorer) keep a record of sensitive information in the form of cookies on every page you visit, even after you have closed them and logged out.

Don’t save files locally

Do not download, save to the local hard drive, or print confidential and/or personal information. An easy way to protect this data is to carry an encrypted flash drive and save files on it when necessary.

Delete temporary files

Temporary files (often abbreviated to “temp files”) are created when you use programs other than a web browser. For instance, when you create a Word document, in addition to the actual document file you save, Word creates a temporary file to store information. This is so that memory can be freed for other purposes and to prevent data loss in the file-saving process.

Pay attention to your surroundings and use common sense

Finally, be aware of the people around you and look out for potential shoulder surfers. Remember that a public computer is just that – public. Even if no one is around, there could be security cameras over your shoulder. Always cover your hands from view when entering any login information to prevent any casual spying and never leave the computer unlocked and unattended.

Most importantly, remember that there is nothing you can do to make a public computer completely secure. With that less-than-comforting thought, use common sense and use public computers only for non-sensitive tasks.

Each month in The Beat we will explore different cyber security threats and provide tips for avoiding them. Up next: Protecting your Mobile Device.

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