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InfoSec – Using Public* and Shared Devices Safely

Business man using computer in driving suit.

*A public device refers to any device, such as a computer, that is available in a public space
such as a school, library, government office, or any other open-access area or business
may be used or accessed by multiple people.

  • Keep it Casual.

Avoid doing anything sensitive like online banking or making a purchase while using a public computer. Again, there is NO guarantee that the machine or the network is secure and someone may have a way of extracting valuable personal information from the sites you visit or your activity on the computer. This is also recommended when using your own device over public or open WiFi.  On-campus use NMC-Staff for your wifi, as it requires a password and is authenticated. 

  • Delete your browsing history and passwords.

You don’t have any control over the administration of a public computer and you don’t know who has been on it or who will use it next! For this reason, never save your passwords in a public browser and do not save any personal information such as photos, documents, etc. on a computer. If you download a file containing personal information, delete that file from the computer BEFORE logging out/restarting. A quick way to clear your browsing history in Chrome is “Ctrl + Shift + Delete”. 

  • Go “Incognito”. 

Eliminate any cookies from your web traffic being stored on the computer by using private browsing windows. Google refers to this as “incognito mode” which can be accessed by right-clicking the Chrome icon and choosing “new incognito window”. This does not hide your activity from administrators of the computer it but does prevent a record of your web history and passwords from being stored in the browser.

  • Non-Technical Foul!

One of the oldest techniques that malicious actors use is called shoulder surfing, wherein someone wanting to know your personal details hovers around you and sneaks peeks at your screen. You would be surprised how easy this is to do and what can be gained from the attacker’s perspective. If you see someone lurking around, report it or politely ask for some space.

  • Shut it Down!

After ensuring the browser cache is cleared and you haven’t saved or downloaded any sensitive files, the best bet is to restart the computer. Do not simply log-off. This is especially important for users of shared devices. Lastly, if you need to step away from the computer, lock the screen. Never leave a computer unlocked and unattended, especially if you have sensitive information displayed. That’s an all-you-can-eat buffet for a criminal!

NMC Information Security

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