Safe computing while traveling

 

Summer travel usually leads you to using computers in hotels, libraries, internet cafés and other public places while we you attempt to stay connected to your social accounts, financial/credit card accounts, and checking email, as examples. Unfortunately, unless you utilize two factor authentication (2FA) for any of your accounts, there is a strong likelihood that the personal footprint (username & password) left behind on the visiting computer or device can be re-utilized by a hacker afterwards.

So what are some things you can do to protect yourself (digitally) while traveling:

  1. Delete the Browser History: This should be the first step you take to protect your privacy when Web surfing on a public computer. When you've finished browsing, it's a good idea to delete the cache, cookies, form data, history, and temporary Internet files before you leave the public computer.

  2. Don’t save files locally: When you're using a computer other than your own, avoid saving files locally if you can help it. Use a flash/USB drive if you need to save email attachments, pictures or other documents. Leaving files on the public computer could contain some of your private information. Be sure to minimally check the “Desktop” and “Download” folder for any files you may have unintentionally left on the machine and delete them.

  3. Don’t save passwords on the computer: This should be obvious when using a public computer, but if the option is already turned on, you might forget about it. Usually, the browsers (ex. Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, Chrome) will prompt you and ask if you would like to save the username and password. Just say no. Additionally, you can use the “Tools” options in the browser(s) to turn the save password feature off.

  4. Avoid doing on-line banking:You should remember that ultimately, a public computer is never going to be anywhere close to completely secure, so there are some things you just shouldn't use them for. If you really need to check your balance on the road, you're much better off finding a branch office or ATM or using your phone.

  5. Don’t enter credit card information: As with online banking, public computers are not the place for online shopping. Your purchases from eBay or Amazon.com can should wait until you can browse from a more secure location. A little added convenience isn't worth the trouble of having your credit card hijacked in a hotel lobby.

  6. (Advanced) Delete temporary files:Temporary files (often abbreviated to "temp files"), as opposed to temporary Internet 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 so memory can be freed for other purposes and to prevent data loss in the file-saving process. These files are supposed to be deleted automatically when the program is closed or during a system restart, but unfortunately they often aren't. To find these files, do a search on all local drives (including subfolders, hidden, and system files) for*.tmp,*.chk,~*.*This will bring up all files beginning with a tilde or with the extensions .tmp and .chk, which are the most common temp files. Once the search is complete, highlight all and Shift + Delete to remove them. (If you don't hold down Shift, they'll usually be sent to the Recycle Bin, which you would then have to empty.)

  7. (Advanced) Turn on two-factor authentication (2FA) for your mobile devices and sites you intend to access while traveling. 2FA is a secondary security option you can choose with a variety of sites that offer it (ex. Facebook, Dropbox, etc) and devices (ex. iphone, tablet, ipad, androids, other mobile devices) with the device/service/website provider. Most providers will require the use of a cell phone with cellular or wifi capabilities.  Your cell phone is the device that they will second the “secondary” code (a.k.a second factor) for you to enter. This secondary method is used in addition to your username and password (a.k.a. first factor). So even if your password is stolen, no one can get into your account without the “secondary” code. There are options (ex. Keyfobs, YubiKey) you can use without the use of a cell phone. These are generally considered as more advanced options.

  8. Use common sense when you choose to use a public location:  Anything you display or type on your screen can easily be seen when in public. Be aware of your surroundings and take notice of any one or thing (ex. Cameras) around you that may be looking over your shoulder.  Don't view any truly sensitive documents you don’t want others to see.

  9. Lastly, these tips are not completely fool proof nor are any public computers/devices guaranteed to be physically safeguarded and protected from hackers. However, following these recommendations can go a long way to ensuring the safety of your on-line usage while traveling. ENJOY your travels!

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