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Keep Your Passwords Safe on Public Use Computers

Keep Your Passwords Safe on Public Use Computers

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Default Keep Your Passwords Safe on Public Use Computers

As you no doubt realize, passwords are the keys to our resources, our belongings and our online accounts, including our finances. While using our own home or office facilities, most of us work hard at keeping the possibility of having our information monitored or stolen at as low a level as possible. But the threat is still quite real. Part of our protection armor must include the use of protection software such as virus scanners and spyware scanners. It really is a very bad idea to use any internet connected computer today that does NOT have any means of virus or spyware protection. Almost all new computers sold today come equipped with some form of protection pre-installed. And a variety of alternate programs and services are available, many of them at no cost.

But what do you do if you are not at your home or office? This poses a much greater security risk to your password and account safety. Examples and accountings of hijacking of passwords, of tracking surfing activity and of capturing screen information of a user seem to be a common occurrence.

The best method of dealing with these facilities is to simply not use them for any medium or high security uses such as accessing bank accounts or other highly sensitive services you require.

But, of course we don't live in a vacuum and circumstances may dictate that you simply must do so at various times. So when it is essential, there are many steps you should take to ensure your own security. These steps will take a few minutes, but will increase your security by a wide margin and give you peace of mind that your passwords, accounts and information are not being compromised.

First, ensure that the computer you are using is free from spyware. The most vicious of spyware forms is "key logging" software that records your keystrokes. This will instantly compromise your passwords and everything those passwords allows access to. If the computer you are using has one of the brand name spyware scanners installed, run it to ensure there are no hidden threats lurking behind the scenes. On many public machines, the start menu will offer a virus or spyware selection. If there are none of these available on the machine, you can visit one of a number of websites to run a spyware scan without installing a complete application on the computer, which, since it is a public computer, is likely not allowed. There are a number of these out there and you can pick one (or more!) from an internet search for the words "online spyware scan". Most of these require a script be installed and run and will take a few minutes to identity the cleanliness of the computer. Follow the instructions given by the software vendor's website. If there are threats that cannot be easily removed by the software, move on to another machine and advise the owner of the problem.

The next step you should take is to ensure the browser you will be using will not store your usernames and passwords. For Internet Explorer, this function is called "autocomplete" and can be disabled through the options setting of the menus. It is good practice to test that this has actually been turned off by logging into one of your accounts with a phony password. Then close and restart the internet browser and start the login process again. If the system does not offer you a "remembered" password as you type in the same username and phony password once again, you know that it is not storing your passwords. You can then login with your real username and password. On the other hand, if it brings up a password or username before you have completed typing it, do not put in your real information, but go back and try turning off "autocomplete" once again. Otherwise, you should simply move on to another machine.

Once you have accessed your accounts and have completed your sessions, make sure you purge as much of your activity from the computer as possible. Be sure to delete all "temporary files" and all "cookies" from the machine. This is done from selections under the options setting of the browser you are using. This helps erase your tracks from any prying eyes after you leave the computer!

Our information, accounts, resources and the passwords that unlock all of them are too valuable to leave for granted or to chance.

Knowing how to use passwords away from home is only a portion of the methods and techniques we all need to know to protect our belongings, our security and our personal and family identities.

You too can learn how to simply and easily create a number of secure passwords that avoids being compromised by any number of methods, and at the same time will be easily remembered. Visit the Easy Create and Remember Secure Passwords web site at

About the Author

G.L. Bailey is an Electronics Engineer with over 30 years experience in the electronics, communications, business and consulting industries.


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