Privacy on the Road

From the New York Times, a nice little piece about privacy (or lack thereof) on the road:

Using a public computer can also mean courting trouble, because data viewed while surfing the Web, printing a document or opening an e-mail attachment is generally stored on the computer — meaning it could be accessible to the next person who sits down. (To remove traces of your work, delete any documents you have viewed, clear the browser cache and the history file and empty the trash before you walk away.)

“You also run the risk that somebody has loaded a program on there that can capture your log-ins and passwords,” Mr. Louderback said, recalling an incident a few years ago when a Queens resident was caught installing this type of “key logger” software on computers at several Kinko’s locations in New York.

As the article points out, it’s a scary, scary world out there. Public computers can be searched for passwords or equipped with malicious keyloggers. Wiireless hot spots can be raided with packet sniffers. There are software solutions for getting around these, but the easiest solution is also the safest:

Absolutely never check your bank account on a public computer. And be careful about checking it on a wireless hotspot.

One thing the article lacked was a real discussion of how prevalent this kind of identity theft is. What are the statistics on this kind of thing, Dan? How much identity theft (or for that matter, data theft) comes out of these kinds of interactions – do we have any ideas?

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3 Responses

  1. Vasu says:

    And be careful about checking it on a wireless hotspot…..

    The above statement should probably state

    “When checking bank balance at a public wireless hotspot do the following

    1. Always type the URL ( on the browser address bar

    2. Always READ any messages should one pop-up during the transaction ”

    (1) above will prevent ‘phishing attacks’

    (2) will prevent man-in-the-middle attacks.

    Every computer site seems to provide the high level guidance like you said, but never clear. Careful can also be construed as “look around make sure you are not being watched” 🙂

  2. FAST-E-MAIL says:

    Best way to use public computer – even do not use

    access to you e-mails etc. accounts via Web.

    It is very easy now to send E-mails, without access

    to your inboxes:

    Simply do it from Web Site:

  3. An interesting way to keep some data private is to use a USB Flash Drive loaded with some programs that can run directly from there, so that no files need to be installed on the public computer.

    There’s an entire range of software to choose from at – including Mozilla Firefox and Open Office.