Full disclosure: we don’t recommend doing anything important, or really anything at all, on a public computer. However, we understand that sometimes life works out in an unideal fashion, and sometimes you can be stuck doing something you shouldn’t, and otherwise wouldn’t. Even in these cases, there are steps you can take to preserve your security.
Despite the explosion in mobile device connectivity, the use of public computers is still remarkably common. Unfortunately, the same remarks can’t be said about their relative security. These open devices tend to have few solutions in place–if any–especially when compared to the average privately-held device.
However, as we go through the steps you need to take while using a public computer, we will also go through some alternatives that you really should consider implementing before you find yourself in this risky situation.
Use a Private Browser
The default settings for most web browsers are designed, more or less, for a single user’s exclusive use. This is why your browser collects data like your history, what you’ve downloaded, and account credentials. It’s all done to make the user’s experience simpler–which, on a private machine, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
However, these capabilities don’t just go away because more than one person uses the computer, and so if you enter some sensitive credentials, the next user may be able to access and utilize them as well. Using a private browser prevents you from leaving those digital footprints on the machine by having it “forget” what you were just using it to access.
Keep in mind, private browsers aren’t a cure-all when it comes to your online security. Even though the computer itself won’t have a record of your browsing, it doesn’t mean that private browsers wipe your trail from the Internet as well. In order to do that, there are other measures you’ll have to take.
Use a Virtual Private Network
Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, are a step up from a private browser. Once a user logs in to their VPN, their IP address is effectively shielded from view, and their activity is processed through an encrypted virtual tunnel. Using proxy servers that span across the globe, your identity and location are shielded enough that you will never be the target of an opportunistic attack.
As far as price is concerned with a VPN, there are free options out there, as well as many very reasonably priced, paid varieties. Your VPN would need to be set up on your office network before you plan on using it from an outside location.
When it comes to doing business while travelling, it’s only natural that the urge is there to use whatever is available. However, if you must decide between productivity and security, it is much more prudent to prioritize security. After all, without your security, you may just find that your finished product has been tampered with or stolen.
On the topic of security, it cannot be said enough that using a public computer in any professional capacity is simply not a risk that is worth taking. There is simply no way that you may be sure that your data is absolutely safe.