Be Wary Of Accessing Important Data On Public Computers

In the past, a person going computer shopping was considered to be a boring task. Only a few people who would be considered geeks at the time enjoyed going. But these days, a lot of different types of people like going to the store to look at new computers. It is almost as if you are going car shopping. You might not be able to understand all of the technical lingo but you are still excited to be getting a new car. And even more, just like going to buy a car, you are able to test the item out before you take it home.


But some people go a little far when they go to test out computers. Instead of just going on the internet or using some of the programs that are already installed on the machine, they decide to use it like a home computer. While they are in the store, they will go online and check their email and other personal accounts. Some people will even check their banking data on these computers. This is very dangerous for many reasons.

The first reason why this is dangerous is probably the most obvious. You do not know who is standing over your shoulder when you are on these machines. While you are doing your business on the internet there are dozens of people who are going to walk past you and see what you are doing. Some of them are not even trying to be nosy. When people see someone else working on something they just have a natural tendency to look over to see what that person is doing. All you have to do is to log onto your email when the wrong person is walking by and they will have all of the information that they need to be able to access it later on.

Another reason why you shouldn’t access personal accounts on a store computer is because the browser saves your data in many cases. You probably know already that a browser will ask you to save your password. But that is not the only information that it stores. Your browser will also store the web sites that you visited as well as the cookies form those web sites. Some cookies are able to give away password information. You have no control over these browsers so you do not know how they are set up.

So unless you really have to, it is best to not log into personal web sites when you are on a store display computer.

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.


  1. This is very important point, i often go to cyber coffe and find email account of previous user logged in. So i hope that many at least log off thier session before leaving the public computer. And next apply your rule 🙂

    • Would you believe I’ve heard of worse?

      A couple of weeks ago my son went to use a computer in his college’s library. As the previous user got up and walked away he noticed that they had left their online banking account signed on in a minimised window!!!!

  2. Great advice. It should also be stated that the same can apply to ALL public computers (as implied by the article)
    This includes Internet Cafes, Airport, hotel, library etc. public computers. Even friends and family computers can be a risk as you have less control over Anti-Virus and other security settings.

    If you absolutely positively MUST use a computer that is not under your direct control, please make sure you know how to clear the browsing history, cache, cookies and any other personal data you can. Once you return to a ‘safe’ computing environment, it would be prudent to change passwords on accounts that you have accessed.

    • Hi, yes, the implication was certainly that it applied to all public computers. I agree with everything you added there but I would actually take it a step further and actually suggest not using a public computer for anything sensitive. Ever. I just think the risk outweighs any possible reward.


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