Home > Identity Theft > How to Use a Public Computer Safely

Comments 0 Comments

As Americans hit the road this summer for road trips and other vacations, many may be accessing public wireless networks along the way to stay in touch with friends and family back home, check their emails, or do some research on their destination. Next month, college students will start heading back to campus, too, and begin using public computers in school libraries. However, consumers should be careful when logging into public networks to ensure their personal online information is safe.

While public Wi-Fi spots, such as those in coffee shops and airports, are convenient, they can also be a hot spot for cyber criminals. These Wi-Fi networks are ripe for hacker exploitation because they function much like old-fashioned telephone party lines, according to the University of Virginia’s Information Technology website. Taking some extra steps for precaution can protect against the possibility of identity theft.

Wi-Fi Safety

If using a personal computer to access public Wi-Fi networks while on the go, there are a number of things you can do to protect the device from hackers. Before taking off on a trip, enable Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connections on your most-used websites. SSL connections encrypt the information exchanged on a website, making it difficult for hackers to access it. Gmail, Twitter and Facebook, for instance, have such SSL connection options. Clicking on the “Always Use HTTPS” option in Gmail and Twitter, for instance, will enable this security feature.

Turning off the Wi-Fi connection option on your computer before heading out to the airport or other destination where public networks are available is also a smart way to keep hackers out. This will ensure your computer does not hook up to a public network on its own, possibly putting your online information at risk. Once you have arrived at a destination and want to access the Internet, this Wi-Fi option can be turned back on.

For business travelers, using a virtual private network also ensures online safety while on the road. Many companies offer network access to employees while they are traveling, allowing them to hook up to the company’s VPN outside the office. A VPN will act as a shield to outside attacks, the LA Times said.

Public Computer Safety

Public computers don’t need to have anti-spyware programs installed on them – there are no regulations requiring such protection. So taking extra precaution becomes a necessity to ensure your personal information is kept secure.

Remembering to log out of a website is an absolute must when using a public computer. Closing the browser window will not necessarily log a person out of a website, which could leave that information accessible to the next person who uses the computer. Make sure websites, such as social networks, do not automatically save login information on the computer, as well.

Selecting the option to “browse privately” will also erase your tracks on a public computer. Erasing the history and temporary Internet files once you are done using the computer is another smart step.

Image: Fuse

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team