The Tech Moves

How to Stay Safe in an Internet Café

By : Mike James

Whether you’re travelling abroad or you just can’t find anywhere with decent Wi-Fi, sometimes using an internet café is the best way to browse the web. But using a computer in an internet café is a very different thing from using your computer at home. Even if you’re sure that you can trust the business itself, you need to remember that you are using a public internet connection and a computer that someone else will jump onto after you leave.

That means you need to take precautions in order to stay safe. This advice is not just for internet cafés – it is for any time you are using a computer that is not your own and on a public internet connection. Here’s what you need to do to ensure that you stay safe in an internet café.

Pay attention to pop-ups

When you are on your own computer you might get into the habit of ignoring the small details, but in an internet café they really matter. For example, any time that you need to sign into an account you need to watch out for the pop-up that asks whether you want the browser to remember your password. Clearly you don’t want it to so make sure that you press ‘no’ rather than just skim reading it and clicking any button to make it go away.

While we are on the subject of browsers remembering you, make sure that you check out for a little tick box under each login screen that might say something like ‘stay signed in’. You need to ensure that this box is not ticked. Some will be automatically ticked by default.

Avoid sensitive sites

Never use an internet café to log into sensitive sites like your internet banking. Even taking the sensible security precautions it can be impossible to be sure whether the computer is infected with spyware or other nasty viruses. If you log into your online banking you are taking the risk that the computer is safe. It’s just not worth that risk – if you need to check your bank wait until you can use a secure computer or find a branch if possible.

Learn to log out

If you’re used to only over using the internet at home or on your phone it can be easy to overlook the concept of logging out. On your own devices, logging out every time is a waste of time that will just mean you’ll need to login the next time you access the site. But in an internet café you need to get into the habit of logging out every time you leave a site that has an account. The last thing you want to do is leave that account open for the next user to discover.

Clear your history

Once again, at home you might not have cause to clear your cache very often, but in an internet café it is a must after every session. Go into the options on the browser and ensure that browser ‘forgets’ everything that you were doing during your session. This includes your browsing history, cookies and passwords. Getting rid of this data gives you the peace of mind that no-one will be able to use it after you have left.


 

Delete anything you have saved

Sometimes it’s not just the internet you need to think about. For example you might have used the internet café in order to print off a document. Many people save documents to computer desktops before printing. If you do this you need to remember to delete that document (and empty the ‘recycle bin’) if you want to be safe.

Follow sensible precautions

It’s also important to remember that just because this isn’t your device, you still need to follow the same precautions you would usually. Don’t take the chance of opening .exe attachments in unknown emails or browse dodgy websites. Malware and spyware could still access to your data even if the computer is not yours.

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